I am an identity theft victim living in Connecticut. My identity was stolen on July 27, 2001 when army officials on Fort Bragg, NC issued Jerry Wayne Phillips an active duty military ID card in my name and social security number. That happened about 1 ½ years after my retirement as an Army Captain. Thus far, the monetary value of the damage done in my name and SSN is just over $203,000. Ive identified 55 fraudulent accounts and at least 5 fraudulent checking accounts. 24 accounts have made their way to debt collection companies and there is one judgment against me. Those numbers continue to grow as each week passes. ID THEFT VICTIM STORY
Phillips was arrested on December 12, 2001 during a traffic stop in Burke County, NC. He was indicted on federal charges in Texas, pled guilty and is currently serving a 41-month sentence.
Ive taken the steps recommended to me by the FTC and other agencies involved with identity theft. Ive been working to clear up my situation for thirteen months now and sadly I still have a long way to go. I was surprised to learn that not all companies willfully obey the laws in place and its rare to find common sense being applied to my situation. For that reason, victims have to educate themselves. They have to learn the laws and become credit experts so they can encourage companies to meet minimum requirements and in some cases, force companies to comply through litigation. While I have encountered many obstacles and inefficiencies in dealing with the credit bureaus and creditors, at least there is a system in place. By continually monitoring my credit reports and relying on my own persistence, eventually I can beat this situation.
Unfortunately, I do not have the same confidence in relation with the banking accounts and bad checks that were written in my name. While creditors have just three reporting agencies to choose from, banks and vendors that accept checks have a multitude of reporting agencies. Additionally, not all those reporting agencies, which maintain positive and negative databases, provide consumers like me an investigative report nor is there a system in place to dispute negative information. Ive spent some time trying to understand the situation by contacting experts in the banking industry. My conclusion is, there is no system in place to assist an identity theft victim when: 1) Bank accounts are opened in your name and SSN, but are completely removed and unrelated to your own accounts. 2) When bad checks are written on those accounts that are unknown to the victim. What banks, vendors, check verifiers, and debt collectors dont understand is that the victim wont know the bank names, the account numbers, or the check numbers. Additionally, its difficult to fix responsibility on any of them to remove the negative information created.
What happen recently with Ford Credit is getting a lot of attention. Its being called the largest Identity theft ever. I'm glad the crime itself is getting the attention it deserves, but it depends on what victim's view you take as to whether its the largest. I think I read that 15,000 credit reports were stolen and the total dollars were like $2.7mm. While I know that banks and places that issue credit are victims too, I think the non-business victims and what they go through tends to get lost in the mix. Everyone thinks in terms of dollars. When I explain what's happening to me, the last thought I usually hear from someone is...well at least you're not responsible for the dollars. I felt that way too at the beginning of all this, but not any longer. I am being held responsible. If I weren't, I wouldn't have to work so darn hard to stay out of trouble. If I do nothing, the lawsuits against me would be so numerous I would lose everything and wouldn't even be in a position to start over. I can't open a banking account or cash checks. I can't get credit. I have about $4000 out of pocket expenses, but it's really not the dollars that make this so tragic. It's the things I can't put a price tag on. Over 600 hours of my life so far spent trying to clear up something I'm supposedly not responsible for. Watching 3:00am click by on my clock night after night because my mind won't stop thinking about something I'm not responsible for. Anxiety so intense each morning, I felt my heart would beat out of my chest and there wasn't enough air to breath all because I have to chose each and every day between two full time jobs. The one that pays my bills and the one that I'm not responsible for. I feel terrible for those 30,000 victims that had their credit reports stolen. At the same time, from my point of view, 30,000 into $2.7mm is about $90 per person. I'm sure it's more for some and less for others and I don't envy the task those victims have to clear up something they are not responsible for, but it could be a lot worse. Phillips case never made it to trial because the damage he caused only amounted to about $200,000 and trials cost more than that. Unfortunately, all $200,000 of that is in my name and Im the one that has to clean it up. He pled guilty to one single charge and that was purchasing a motorcycle from Harley Davidson in Texas using a false identity and then crossing state lines with that motorcycle. I'm not even the victim in that case, Harley Davidson is, but at least hes serving time. As much as Jerry Wayne Phillips, the United States Army is to blame for my situation. They were simply negligent. People often ask me how Phillips got my name and SSN. I tell them that I was in the army for over 20 years. My name and SSN is on every piece of paper I ever filled out and there are thousands that have access to it. It shouldnt matter though, if Osama Bin Laden had my name and SSN, he shouldnt be able to get an official military ID card issued to him. I think its unfortunate that the military goes unscathed in all this. There is no monetary loss to them and they have no responsibility to assist me or make any changes to their procedures. In fact, they actually attempted to garnish my military retirement pay because one of the fraudulent accounts opened was with the Army Air Force Exchange Service. Even though I cleared myself of that situation back in March 2002, they have recently attempted to garnish my pay for a second time.
It's been a tough road thus far and I'm not seeing much light at the end of the tunnel. I've all but given up on clearing my name in a reasonable amount of time and focus more in trying to effect some changes and provide information as a victim of the crime.
Story submitted on: 2002-12-17 00:00:00.0.