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Man Steals Paul Allen's Identity, Pays Off $600 Loan

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At nearly the same time as news of Microsoft’s (MSFT) successful action against the Zeus botnet was breaking, a key company figure was confronting a scammer of his own. Court documents unsealed yesterday reveal that an AWOL soldier briefly stole Paul Allen’s identity earlier this year.

The AP reports that Brandon Lee Price called Citibank (C) in January, posing as Paul Allen. He then requested a change of address for his account and, three days later, a new debit card. Apparently, this worked.

Price used the card to pay off a $658.81 Armed Forces Bank Loan. He also attempted a $15,000 Western Union transaction and visited a video game store and a dollar store.

Meanwhile Paul Allen owns the Seattle Seahawks, the Portland Trailblazers and a $200 million yacht called the Octopus. None of these items are available at the dollar store.

Price was arrested on March 2 and is being held until April 2 when he will be released to the army. At the time of the identity theft, Price had been AWOL since June 2010 and was wanted in connection with that.

Now, obviously, this case raises a number of questions. For starters, why steal a billionaire’s identity if you’re only going to spend a few hundred dollars -- Price’s total upon his arrest was less than $1,000.

More importantly is the question of how, exactly, Price managed to pull this off. The affidavit (available here) released in connection with the case contains no mention of how Price convinced Citibank customer service that he was the co-founder of Microsoft. As far as I can tell, all of the conversations that led to his receiving a debit card in Allen’s name were conducted over the phone.

Of course, Citibank customer service representatives aren’t necessarily responsible for knowing who Paul Allen is. Still, getting one of the richest men in the world’s debit cards should require more than a couple of phone calls.

Meanwhile, last week Allen gave slightly more than $1,000 to “fund projects to map and observe the human brain.” Maybe the donation will help us figure out why people steal identities.
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.