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It’s rare and unfathomably sadistic, but it has happened.

A servicemember is deployed. A stranger shows up at a loved one’s door or calls saying that the military member has been injured or killed. It ends up being a hoax.

The Army’s Criminal Investigation Command is reminding military family members to report such instances if they occur as part of the recently launched CID Lookout program, an initiative to remind the military community about what rights and resources they have for a variety of crimes.

Periodic updates will be released by the CID on other criminal issues such as child safety, Internet fraud and identity theft, officials said.

Tricking a family member into thinking something has happened to their deployed servicemember is not common — only a few cases have been investigated — but CID wants to remind people of what they can do if this occurs, said Christopher Grey, a CID spokesman.

“We didn’t put this release out because there is a rash of incidences,” Grey said. “We want to make people aware of this. If they hear of this, we need to know about it.”

As part of the Stop Terrorist and Military Hoaxes Act of 2004, it’s a criminal offense to convey false or misleading information about the status of a servicemember during a time of armed conflict. In addition to fines, violators can face up to five years imprisonment. If injury or death occurs because of the hoax, an offender can face 20 years to life.

According to a CID release, soldiers are asked to personally call their families if they’re injured. Otherwise, a call will be made from hospital staff where the soldier is recovering.

A casualty assistance officer will almost always deliver the news of a servicemember’s death.

CID recommends that if a family member ever receives a call concerning the medical status of their loved ones deployed to a combat zone, they should try to confirm the name and number of the caller with the local casualty office or the American Red Cross.

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