Billionaire and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has been victimized by a surprisingly simply identity theft scheme. Executed by an AWOL soldier, it’s left a major American financial institution with some serious egg on its face.
According to federal investigators, Brandon Lee Price, a 28-year-old United States Army deserter from Pittsburgh, was able to acquire a debit card in Allen’s name simply by calling Citibank and pretending to be the Microsoft business mogul.
Citibank put up little fight, and Price was able to convince the bank to send him the card even though he lives a distance of roughly 2,500 miles from Allen’s home in Seattle, Washington.
Once he got the debit card, Price — who had been away without leave since June of 2010 — used it to attempt several transactions. First, he tried to complete a $15,000 Western Union transaction. Next, he attempted to make a $658 loan payment. Finally, it appears he tried to purchase a number of items from several retail outlets, including video game and dollar stores.
Citibank eventually got wise to the scheme and contacted law enforcement officials, who have since arrested Price. Further investigation revealed that only the loan payment had gone through.
A surprised Allen had this to say through spokesperson David Postman: “Clearly, it’s a reminder that anyone can be a victim of this…It certainly is a surprise and reason for everyone to make sure that all that stuff is properly cared for and monitored.”
The real question now appears to be how it is Price was able to get a hold of Allen’s card without being grilled with identity-proving questions. “This is surprising that [Citibank] would do this,” said Consumer Reports analyst, Jeff Blyskal.
“They have ways to ID you when you call up…Passcodes, security questions.”
Citibank has refused to comment on the situation, citing client confidentiality concerns. Unfortunately, that is unlikely to satisfy experts like Blyskal or clients like Allen.