Officials warn of records hoax

NPRC web page with warning about fake e-mail

Don't fall for an Internet hoax that tries to convince veterans that the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) plans to destroy all paper military records.

That's the message from Scott Levins, assistant director of military records at NPRC, a St. Louis-based division of the National Archives and Records Administration, who debunked the official-looking fake message circulating via e-mail and on veterans-related Web sites.

Levins said "it is our mission to protect and preserve veterans' records," and the NPRC has no intention of destroying paper records as part of the digitization process, as the hoax e-mail alleges.

Levins said that the e-mail -- which carries an official-looking header reading "Destruction of Original Military Records, HQ AFR/DP/04-254" -- tells veterans to quickly request a copy of the records before the alleged destruction process begins. Levins said he was concerned this could lead to a flurry of requests for records by veterans to the center, which already has a backlog of 120,000 records requests.

NPRC officials first became aware of the hoax late last month and have started analyzing records requests to determine whether the hoax has resulted in an increase in such requests, Levins said.

To debunk the hoax, NPRC officials have posted a notice on the eVetRecs Web site, which tells users that "neither the Department of Defense nor the National Personnel Records Center intend to destroy any [Official Military Personnel Files] stored at the center. The purpose of any electronic scanning would be to reduce the handling of fragile records during the reference process or to reduce the time necessary to locate and answer an OMPF inquiry."

Despite that warning, officials at the National Border Patrol Council, the union that represents 10,000 U.S. Border Patrol employees, fell for the hoax and had posted a portion of the fake e-mail on the council's Web site until contacted by Federal Computer Week Sept. 21. Rich Pierce, executive vice president of the union, said he posted the fake e-mail because it came "from a really good source." Council officials have taken down the message.

The Coast Guard, which like the Border Patrol, is an agency of the Homeland Security Department, carried a warning about the fake e-mail on the Military Personnel section of its Web site, warning users about "false reports" of the destruction of military records.

Peter Gaytan, director of the veterans affairs and rehabilitation division of the American Legion, said the organization was alerted to the fake e-mail several weeks ago and found it was untrue. He added that legion officials "will be alerting our district service officers via e-mail and bulletin ASAP" about the hoax.

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