In was on June 1 2000 that we found out we had over $70,000 of unpaid accounts against our Social Security Numbers. . At first I said it was a mistake and they had the wrong people, after all we had no accounts in the USA except one which I knew had a near zero balance. Must be wrong, maybe someone with similar SS number or name? We had no idea what the mortgage company was complaining about as we had been in England for years and had returned to the USA to a new job, schools for the children and hopefully a home. We had found a perfect place, much larger than the one we had in England , backing up to a forest preserve so no-one was behind us or to the side of us, a problem we had in England. So put down the deposit, filled out the stacks of paper and submitted out bid. We agreed on a price and submitted our paperwork for the mortgage. Normally the realtor wanted pre-qualification but since we were half between England and the USA it wasnt done, apparently ID THEFT VICTIM STORY
The copy of the credit report arrived and it spread to 15 pages on which were accounts with Sears, Discovery, MBNA, American Express, JC Penny, Home Depot, Phillips 66, John Deere, numerous other credit cards and financial institutions. There was even a court judgment against my wife in 1998 awarded to Sears for $11, 000. Nearly all were opened between Feb 1992 and 1999. Yet we had been in England most of that time, after all what good is a $4000 John Deere tractor in the USA when we are living in England? A closer examination revealed one or two of the accounts had been opened in the mid / late 1980s and were account which I thought had been closed. At this point we were told it could be Identity Fraud. Whats that? We had no idea, after all credit reports are not available in the UK and in fact you cant get a credit report from the US credit bureaus if you dont have a US address and official identity. We were advised to get an attorney, call the credit bureaus and the companies involved and so began the long hours on the telephone. It quickly became apparent that the addresses used for the credit was in Oklahoma, a place we had left in 1990. What was even more amazing was it was our old address and then a new address, also in Oklahoma, that we had never lived at, especially since it was from 1994 when we were definitely in England the whole time. Then a name kept appearing, the same last name of two people,. Strangely, the name showed up on my wifes credit report as an alias, along with 14 other variations, 3 addresses and some employment position which my wife had never worked at. Somewhere around 1994 / 1995 my name, well actually misspellings since the thieves could spell neither my first name nor my last correctly, started to show delinquent accounts. Apparently I worked at either a car parts company or a metal fabrication plant which is strange since I am a software engineer. Most companies asked for a statement and a police report, one or two passed the calls onto attorneys and one or two claimed this was not going to get us out of paying our debts. So we filled out a police report and filed it with the police in the city where the crimes occurred. We received a police report number and nothing else. No interviews, telephone calls, return of calls. Nothing!
Friends of the family put us in touch with an attorney who dealt with financial problems. He decided to get in touch with the FBI who quickly passed it to the Secret Service. He gave us the name of a Secret Service agent in Chicago who would be the investigator. Problem was we had to get a mortgage, after all, the house we wanted was now wanted by someone else and the contract had a time limit to gain a mortgage. So we called and left a message for him to call us. The next day we heard through our attorney that if we called again the Secret Service agent would delay the investigation as he was busy and didnt want us calling him. So I called the Secret Service in Oklahoma and talked to an agent there who asked me several questions and asked me to send any details I had. He took the police report number and said he would get a copy through the liaison they have.
Several more hours were spent trying to get items removed or letters from the creditors stating the item was fraudulent. Then, came two big problems. Firstly, the mortgage company we were dealing with did not want or could not get a mortgage for us. Friends around the USA tried all kinds of people to get us a mortgage but we had such terrible credit scores nothing could be done. Secondly, one or two companies refused to agree that the account was fraudulent. The Sears attorney stated he had served the court papers on the right person and we had to pay the $11,000. Even our attorney could not get him to rescind the accounts (there were two delinquent accounts in my wifes name). One collection agency, who actually had their business within 6 miles of the actual people involved, told me You need to pay your accounts before we will even consider telling the credit bureaus anything. Well after I screamed at him for 15 minutes he changed his mind and said I only answer the telephone, you need to send us the police report and we will see what we can do.
Within two weeks we had nearly all the accounts agreeing to remove the bad reports. Strangely, the companies which had accounts which werent delinquent, but were fraudulent, did not want to cancel them as they were getting the minimum payment each month. Some companies had sold the accounts on and would only take the bad credit report off once the current holder of the account had done so, except for one large finance company who stated it was not their policy to take any bad credit off. That was until I told them they were breaking the Consumer Credit laws.
Along the way we had figures out who the criminal(s) were as well. In 1990 we had cold our house in Oklahoma to two people who knew we were going to England. They still lived at the house, well one of them did as the other had married and moved to another house not far away which just happened to be the second address which showed up on the credit grantors records. By checking the telephone numbers used in the applications we found the first house was being used as the telephone number to confirm employment. On my fraudulent applications a third telephone number used as employment verification was actually the home business number for the new spouse, although the company name on the applications was never the real business name. Each application was different, each claiming 10 years employment. Even applications made in the same month had different name spellings and places of employment. Yet through them all the same addresses appeared, along with our Social Security numbers. The addresses being the house we sold and the house the newly weds had moved to. Since the accounts needed time to max out they had sent in minimum payments and on those checks were the names of the people who had bought our house. The telephone numbers used belonged to the people who had bought our house. The address were Sears served the court papers was at the second house.
We now had less than two weeks before the contract to buy the house expired, and under pressure from the owners who had got a higher offer, we still did not have a mortgage. Then through a really wonderful friend in Oklahoma we were introduced to a person who dealt with getting mortgages for people with bad credit. We sent over copies of the police reports, statements from companies, a statement from us detailing what we knew and waited. It was too late, the house contract fell through and we now had no idea what we were going to do. My wife, who had returned to England, flew back to Chicago with the children again to see what we could do. We drove past the house we had hoped to buy and noticed, at a house 5 doors down, a woman putting out a sign For Sale by Owner. We got out, viewed the house and put a contract on the house that night. We still didnt have a mortgage but we had not been rejected either. At this point we still had not been contacted by the police nor had they returned our calls. My wife was planning on going to Oklahoma since this was easy, we knew who had committed the crimes, were they lived, the jobs they held, the cars they drove, the private schools their children went to, the fact they tried to buy a car for as a graduation present (on my wifes credit) for the eldest. What would be the problem? A few weeks staying with relatives / friends while appearing as a witness in court. Open and shut case. Still no calls and no return calls to our messages from the police. We were told by our attorney that City Hall takes time.
Well we ended up getting a mortgage at 10.75% from the mortgage arranger in Oklahoma. Fortunately it arrived on the day when the owners of the house required us to produce proof of mortgage, since they had also received a higher offer. We moved in 6 weeks later and made plans for the certainty we would be called to testify. Months went past. Calls to the police never received a return call. Offers to visit in Oklahoma were not answered. The Secret Service agent always responded, but usually with he was investigating and thats all he would say. If any new accounts appeared I contacted him to give details and actually found bad credit on my Social Security number was actually not valid but did show appliances had been bought on my wifes Social Security Number while we still lived in England. Occasionally we got threatening calls from collection agencies who had purchased accounts which the original owners knew were fraudulent. One particular collection agent threatened You need to call me. You future life depends on it at 8:30 am on a Sunday morning. Calls and mailings of the police report did nothing until our attorney called.
In 2001 we were visiting relatives in Oklahoma and found the house which had been the new home of one of the thieves until the previous year. It had a huge lot and a swimming pool. Enough was enough, these people were driving expensive cars, had big houses and were still walking the streets. We tried to get the local TV stations interested through our previously mentioned, wonderful friend and one anchor agreed but only if the Secret Service agreed. They refused comment.
So now we are 28 months down the road. Last week a couple appeared on CNN claiming identity fraud. Six accounts and a few thousand dollars. They didnt know who did it. SO how come we have now over $80,000 of fraudulent accounts, over 30 accounts opened, mail fraud( at one point the thieves opened a letter to me containing an credit card I had forgotten to cancel before I left for England. The spouse signed the credit card, maxed it out and then before it became delinquent used it as a reference for another credit card) and we have seen nothing. I checked out the Internet for any news of identity fraud that I had not seen before and came across VAA (Victims Assistance of America). I spoke to the president of that group who advised me to get in touch with the Attorney General of Oklahoma. I did and found they claimed to have no jurisdiction but I should try the district attorney. I did that and he told me he knew nothing about the case and I should call the police again. I did and this time got a reply. Apparently the case was shelved since not one company had filed a complaint with then and since The companies are the victims not the individual they didnt have a case so did nothing. With 7 months left on the statute of limitations we had gone nowhere. I had filed a police report but even though Oklahoma has the following
165.800 Identity theft. (1) A person commits the crime of identity theft if the person, with the intent to deceive or to defraud, obtains, possesses, transfers, creates, utters or converts to the persons own use the personal identification of another person. (2) Identity theft is a Class C felony.
they have done nothing.
Still nothing from the Secret Service even though he always takes my calls and tells me the case is being investigated. The thieves are still free. Their eldest wants to become a preacher. We still get the occasional collection agency telling us about a deal on an open $12,000 account for furniture, the latest being we pay 2/3 rd they pay 1/3 rd.
It never ends.
Story submitted on: 2002-10-19 00:00:00.0.