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CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — U.S. Forces Korea is advising its personnel not to allow merchants to photocopy their military identification cards following revelations that South Korean cell phone dealers fraudulently used thousands of soldiers’ identities.

Saturday, Stars and Stripes published details of a confidential Department of the Army memo stating that during the past two years, South Korean cell phone dealers fraudulently used photocopies of approximately 10,500 ID cards belonging to U.S. soldiers throughout South Korea.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported Monday that the Cyber Computer Unit of the Korean National Police uncovered the scam during an investigation that found four cell phones used by a manager of a bogus online shopping Web site were registered to U.S. soldiers.

USFK spokeswoman Col. MaryAnn Cummings said military personnel, Department of Defense civilians and their families in South Korea routinely were informed that they should let no one photocopy their military ID cards.

“The command is very concerned about criminal behavior that is directed toward U.S. Forces Korea and their families,” she said.

USFK had used, and would continue to use, American Forces Network Korea, newcomers’ briefings, commanders’ calls and military newspapers to inform and warn soldiers, she said. “We will continue to use these opportunities to educate our personnel about the danger of allowing anyone to photocopy their DOD identification card.”

An investigator from the CCU told Stars and Stripes that anyone, regardless of nationality, who wanted to buy a cell phone in South Korea had to provide copies of his or her ID to a cell phone dealer.

The investigator said some U.S. military personnel buying cell phones provided their military IDs and others refused. Cell phone dealers sold phones to the military personnel who refused to supply ID by registering the phones in the names of those who had provided ID, he said.

But many cell phones bought by soldiers who did not provide ID were falling into South Korean criminals’ hands, he said.

A cell phone dealer operating from a shop near Camp Casey’s front gate said asking for ID from customers, whatever their nationality, was routine. Cell phone companies, such as LG or SK, required the ID copies to create a cell phone account, he said.

The dealer said he would refuse to sell a phone to any soldier who refused to show his or her ID.

Military personnel still can buy a South Korean cell phone by providing nonmilitary identification.

Soldiers who have lost their cell phones should report the loss immediately to their cell phone company or the Korean National Police. Lost cell phones could be resold, the dealer said, and the original owner’s name and credit history still might be associated with such phones.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.
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