As an AWOL soldier, Brandon Lee Price was already in a bit of hot water, what with being AWOL and all, which means he was a deserter, which is just not an entirely cool thing to have on your résumé.
And the he owed his Armed Forces Bank loan account $658.81, which may not sound like a lot, but I don’t think that GI’s make a ton begin with, and I’m guessing that, when you desert, the buck stops altogether.
So it might have seemed like a nifty idea to call Citibank and change Paul Allen’s Seattle address to your own address in Pittsburgh.
Okay. Not everyone’s familiar with Paul Allen’s name.
I mean, it’s not like he’s Steve Jobs or Bill Gates or Scott McNealy even.
Although there’s only one Paul Allen who was co-founder of Microsoft, it is, after all, a pretty common one. I just searched on White Pages, and there are 100+ in the U.S. alone.
So I’m not surprised that the hapless person who answered the phone at Citibank and said, “Certainly, Mr. Allen, I’ll make that change right away” didn’t know who she wasn’t speaking with.
Still, isn’t it a bit odd that a bank would let you call up and make this sort of change without asking for something like your account number? Or Social? Or mother’s maiden? Or DOB? (Okay, anyone could find that one: January 21, 1953, if Wikipedia is to be trusted.)
And I don’t imagine that the hapless person on the phone got to glance into his account, which probably doesn’t hold anywhere near all $14B he’s worth either, and ask herself/himself, “Wonder why he’s moving from Seattle to Pittsburgh? If I had that kind of dough, I’d live in Tahiti."
Still, I’d be a bit surprised to find out there there’s not a process for change of address, a tiny bit of security control, that the hapless person on the phone neglected to follow.
So Brandon Lee Price succeeded in getting the address changed. Just in time to report a lost debit card. Which Citi replaced and proceeded to mail to the fake Paul Allen, who was really the real Brandon Lee Price.
By the time the time the debit card showed up in his Pittsburgh mailbox, Brandon Lee Price must have been thinking I’m the luckiest darned deserter in the entire US Army.
Brandon Lee Price’s ideas of what to do with that debit card weren’t all that outlandish or extravagant. He didn’t seek to buy a major league sports team. Or fund an enterprise to make spacecraft. Or set up a foundation in his name. Or in Paul Allen’s name.
No, he just wanted to, if not pay his debt to society, then at least pay his debt to the Armed Forces Bank. And take care of a couple of other modest purchases. by trying to use the card in a video game store. And at a dollar store. And then he got a bit greedy and tried to wire himself $15K through Western Union.
At some point, Citibank detected the fraud. That $15K Western Union deal-io was likely over a transaction threshold. I suspect if he’d gone to the dollar and dollar stores first, he could have gotten the knock-off Kraft Dinner and Head ‘n Shoulders. And Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto or whatever he was looking for to take up some of the free time he had now that he wasn’t on his own personal call of duty in the US Army.
But the only transaction that went through was the loan repay. (Loan repay? Honor among thieves?)
Anyway, Brandon Lee Price was arrested, and the Army may want to take him into custody.
I suspect that Citibank will make good on the $651.81 to went to pay the loan bag, but if I were Paul Allen I probably wouldn’t be keeping my walking around money there any longer. Of course, when you’ve got $14B, what’s $15K kiting scheme at Western Union?
It does make you wonder about how easy it was for Brandon Lee Price to lay his hands on Paul Allen’s debit card, doesn’t it?
Just under 280,000 cases of identity theft were reported in 2011, according to the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection.
Wonder how many of them involved billionaires?
Source: AP article on boston.com.