The Military ID Was too Easy to Get:
System Failures Aided the Thief
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I have been an identity theft victim for 1 year and I've yet to find an agency or organization that has brought any relief or words of comfort that can make this nightmare seem like it will have an end.
I retired from the US Army in 1999 after 20 years. July of 2001, Jerry Wayne Phillips, was able to get a military ID from FT. Bragg, NC with my name and SSN. From there, you probably know the rest of the story.
With that ID and my good credit history, he was able to buy cars, motorcycles, open credit card accounts, checking accounts, and get credit at virtually every department store that offers credit. I never came in contact with him, I didn't lose a credit card, and I wasn't careless with my social security number. The accounts he opened had no relationship to any of my accounts.
The military simply didn't do a good job protecting my personal information and military records. Incidentally, the military attempted to garnish my retirement pay as a result of an account he opened at an Army Exchange Service.
To the best of my knowledge, I've taken every step available to me to straighten this mess out. I've worked with law enforcement agencies at all levels, all 3 credit bureaus, creditors, banks, lawyers, collection agencies and the list goes on.
Phillips started in July 2001 and was in jail by December 11th, but it seems it will take me years to clean up what took him just 6 months to create. I've been working on this since the end of October 2001.
I've always paid my bills and continue to do so, but I wouldn't be able to borrow a single dollar if my life depended on it because my credit is such a wreck. Two weeks ago, I tried to open a checking account for my 15 year-old daughter who recently started working. I found out there are places, besides the 3 credit bureaus that have negative information on my SSN, which are preventing me from opening a bank account.
I probably sound like I'm ranting here, but this whole thing has me extremely upset. I have found what I consider to be negligence on the part of the military and the credit bureaus and greediness on the part of creditors, and I'm the one left holding the bag. How the military, without any documentation at all, issued an active duty ID card in the name and SSN of someone retired is beyond me. The credit bureaus changed all my personal information on my credit reports to include my address, phone numbers, my work history and even my date of birth. The information on my reports is so inaccurate ... I look like the fraudster.
TransUnion has been the most helpful, but the process is very slow and I've had accounts deleted that re-appear. Equifax has been awful and hasn't done any thing to help me. I can't even get a new report from them. Creditors issued credit because of my high credit rating even though the thief couldn't spell my first name correctly on the applications. He used over 20 different addresses in 6 different states, none of which were in my home state and none of which were real addresses.
Ford credit allowed Phillips to purchase 2 trucks within 30 days, one costing $33,000 in NC and the other in VA costing $52,000 because my credit score was so high at that time. Ford credit wouldn't be too excited about the credit score I have now.
I have no idea what can be done, but I do know that I'm just about worn out. The phone calls, the affidavits, the letters and emails, the hours and hours and hours. Something is not right with all this. The system is really lousy. It's not set up to prevent these things from happening and it's certainly not set up to correct them when it does. I really feel like I'm paying the price for the mistake of others, and there's nothing that can be done.
The thief will do jail time and that's fine. The U.S. Secret Service says it won't go to trial because the damage is only about $200,000, but he will do time as he should.
But to be perfectly honest...I'm wondering who's getting the stiffer punishment, him or me.
[The Burke Co. Sheriff Department in North Carolina where he was arrested issued this press release:
Update December 2002:
My imposter, Jerry Wayne Phillips, was sentenced to 41 months on October 22, 2002. He was prosecuted by the US Attorney in Texas, Eastern District. I'm still struggling with the cleanup and in all I've been dealing with over 65 accounts created by Phillips. I've also been sued by one account and have a judgment against me for $4,200. The situation is insane and even a little hopeless. The biggest problem has been the banking accounts. Phillips opened at least 5 different checking accounts and wrote checks from all of them. I have no idea how many checks total. I can only deal with them as they come after me one by one. While dealing with the 3 major credit bureaus can be difficult and time consuming; dealing with the many check verification and reporting agencies is even more frustrating and difficult and probably will go on for years. On the brighter side, I have found an attorney that is experienced and understands how devastating ID theft is. He's been extremely helpful if for no other reason than he seems to understand the personal side of this crime and gets as angry as I do about what victims face.
After going through this ordeal for over a year, I have a need to become an advocate for all victims, especially the future ones. I have a need to fight back and effect any changes I can to a system that is completely inadequate and insensitive. I think victims of ID Theft hit a point where they realize they can't really help themselves. Nothing that can happen now will change what I've already been put through. All I really have to look forward to is making my situation count for something.
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