from "Victim To Victor"
My Long Nightmare
Can Shorten Yours
the best victim weíve ever had!Ē
a fraud investigator at the Ventura, California Police Department
spoke these words to me, I felt dumbfounded.
This was a compliment? I donít like to think of myself as a victim.
Although Iíve endured setbacks and even tragedies in my life,
just as you probably have, Iíve always been able to survive and grow
in the process. But not until I became a victim of identity theft ó
when someone impersonates you to commit various types of financial
fraud (or worse yet, if they commit crimes in your name) ó did I
know how devastated, overwhelmed, and really frightened I could be.
It was a
nightmare. But I guess,
as the detective suggested, I was a very good example of what to do
when very bad things happen.
A lot of very bad things did happen.
But, I hope, this book is one of the good things that has
emerged from my ordeal Ö and I hope it assists you in getting the
help you need!
thing I learned back in 1996, when this happened to me, was that no
step-by-step, "fill-in-the-blanks" guide for identity-theft
victims even existed. Though
I met some helpful, sympathetic folks whom Iíll tell you about, I
generally found a lack of hard information about what to do and how
exactly to do it. Worse
yet, I ran into a brick wall in the form of major banks and government
bureaucracies. It took tremendous effort for me to overcome these obstacles
and to assert my legal and financial rights.
I had to prove my innocence. Today, these same challenges exist
for victims of this crime; however, new laws have helped improve the
youíve had the misfortune to become an identity-theft victim, the
information in this book and on this CD can help shorten your
nightmare. If you are not a victim, but wish to avoid becoming one,
you can use this book as your protection guide. But, before we
start, just so youíll know Iím no stranger to what youíre
facing, let me tell you what happened to me.
August 16, 1996, I received a telephone call from the Bank of New
York, Delaware, asking why I had not paid my $11,000 credit card bill.
I was shocked! I
didnít have a credit card from that bank, and I certainly didnít
owe $11,000. Clearly,
someone claiming to be me had made the purchases ó and who knows how
many more accounts they had opened in my name?
hadnít lost my wallet. I
hadnít been mugged. I
hadnít loaned my credit cards to anyone; in fact, Iíd always taken
pains to be careful with my confidential documents.
So how could this have happened?
had no idea. Whatís
more, I had no clue what to do about it.
Suddenly, I did feel like a victim. My
life seemed out of control; my carefully woven rug of financial
security had been pulled out from under me.
Itís not too strong to say I felt violated ó ďfinancially
raped.Ē Somewhere out there I had an ďevil twinĒ who had cloned
I had the presence of mind to insist that the Bank of New York,
Delaware send me all documents, including the original application by
the fraud perpetrator, and the billing statements (at the time, there
was no law requiring companies to provide documentation of the fraud,
and most companies refused.) Finally, after much pleading on my part,
the company told me that the card had been issued to an address in
Ventura, California ó four hours from my home.
The bank informed me that its fraud department would handle my
case, but that I should call the credit reporting agencies immediately
and deal with the other false information that might have been put on
my credit report.
the bank didnít send the
documents as promised. Instead
of helping me with my account, the bank sold it to a collection
agency. Soon, I began receiving threatening phone calls and letters
from the bill collectors. In
fact, the bank wouldnít send the police or me any documentation
until I finally was able to corral a bank vice president on the phone
to say they were obstructing justice.
receiving no assistance from my local police, the FBI, or the Secret
Service, I called the Ventura Police Department, in the city where the
perpetrator received the credit card.
Although most victims donít get much help from police
(because there are too many cases and they are labor-intensive to
investigate), I was lucky, because Dave Inglis, the watch commander in
the VPDís fraud unit, had himself been living in identity theft hell
for over a year. I will
forever be grateful to him for going beyond his duty to investigate my
case. His empathy as a fellow victim was a blessing.
five days of my learning about the fraud, the Ventura police went to
the address where the credit cards had been sent.
They spoke to a woman living there who claimed to have known
me. She told them that she received mail in my name because I
used to live in that home.
When I told the police that Iíd never lived
in, or even visited, Ventura, they returned to her home.
After discovering that she was on probation for shoplifting,
the police got a search warrant and were able to search her home and
find a variety of items in my name, including:
billing statements from various creditors; letters from
collection agencies; a letter from Thrifty Rental Car threatening to
sue me at her address for damages to a vehicle she rented; checks with
my name on them; my own business cards snatched from my office
identifying me as an attorney; and a credit report that she had
obtained from Equifax (one of the three major credit reporting
also found drugs and a .22-caliber Beretta handgun.
suspect was arrested and released on bail.
Thus, she was free to continue driving the red Mustang
convertible that she had purchased using my name and credit, and to
continue to apply for more fraudulent accounts using my credit.
Although many months later she pleaded guilty to six counts of
felony fraud, and didnít show up for her sentencing hearing, the
judge leniently allowed her to participate in a work-furlough program
instead of going to jail ó after all this was not a violent
crime. She didnít
enter that work-furlough program until 10 months after she was first
arrested. During that
entire time, she was able to continue her identity theft against me,
and others. After her short "punishment," she was picked up in
another state for committing identity fraud on another victim.
that same time, while I was assisting the police, district attorney,
and courts in prosecuting the fraud perpetrator, I was overwhelmed by
the task of cleaning up my destroyed credit. (The woman who stole my
identity used over $50,000 worth of credit in my name. She obtained a
$15,000 credit line that included checks with my name, and several
high-limit credit cards, including a telephone card.)
Straightening all this out was a true ordeal, which depleted me
physically, emotionally, and financially.
spent hours on the Internet, researching identity fraud. I tried to
find out what steps I should take and who could help me to regain my
financial stability and my identity.
At that time, there was little help for victims. Now that we
have an identity theft epidemic, there are more resources available,
such as those listed by the Federal Trade Commission at
www.consumer.gov/idtheft and in our resources. I spent over 500 hours on the phone, and writing 90 certified
letters to firms and agencies. I
dealt with crime investigators, various credit grantors, my own banks,
government agencies, the State Bar of California (remember she was
parading as an attorney, passing out my business cards), and even my
auto insurance company. During
that hectic first month, and off and on for months afterwards, I was
unable to sleep, however with tenacity I did regain my identity.
How to use this book
make your path easier, Iíve laid out step-by-step instructions,
listed the agencies to contact for help, and provided all the legal
letters you need to write. (In
fact, this book and the CD include form letters to help you speed up
the arduous task of letter writing. The letters are complete with the
legal demands you can make in accordance with the current law; you
just fill in the blanks.) I have created for you, the package that I
wish I would have had when I was victimized.
This guide and CD will ease your anguish and expedite the
process of regaining your credit, your identity, and your sanity.
itís critical to get organized.
You must make a list of priorities, and you must document in writing
all your conversations with the various agencies and companies.
At first, I didnít ó I just stuck little notes everywhere
and got terribly confused. Then,
I wised up (and started thinking like a lawyer again), and began
keeping a detailed record so that I could hold everyone accountable to
provide me with the information that I requested, and was entitled to,
in a timely manner. Those records saved me many times. (In Chapter 5,
Iíll explain how you can set up a similar system.)
not only need to clear up your present situation, you'll also want to
protect your future financial profile and make sure you donít have a
false criminal profile out there.
So, you must insist and ensure that the appropriate changes and
corrections are made on all your records, and that all fraud is
completely removed. This means following up thoroughly, and thatís
another reason itís so important to get organized, so you donít
forget about an account that will surely resurface later.
a step-by-step guide to follow, I had to make one up as I went along.
Fortunately, I found the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (www.privacyrights.org)
and received a sympathetic ear from the director, Beth Givens.
They developed the first strategic list of what to do if you
become a victim of identity theft.
Our guide in Chapter four is similar, but greatly expanded and
addition to being organized and persistent, you must brace yourself
for the fact that many times youíre going to be treated as the
identity theft is a form of robbery that nets more money than the kind
with guns, it's often hard to educate others to take the crime
seriously. Police may not
want to make a report because if they do, they will feel obligated to
investigate. With their mounting workload they just donít have the
resources to investigate most cases.
The Department of Motor Vehicles prefers not to issue a new
license because that in itself may be an invitation to fraud.
And, the Social Security Administration doesn't like to give
out new numbers because one is supposed to last a lifetime and, again,
creating a new SSN can lead to confusion and abuse for the victim. In
fact, a new Social Security number makes the victim look more
suspicious to creditors because the prior number will show up in the
credit reporting database with an alert.
my case, the credit grantors, such as banks, and the credit reporting
agencies were suspicious of me even though the real criminal had
already been arrested. Further,
as I say, itís still not unusual for companies and police
departments to glibly state that we,
the individuals, are not the victims. The
real victims, they still contend, are the credit grantors (such as the
credit card companies), who may lose thousands of dollars. Itís true, federal law protects us with regard to credit
card fraud. But itís a tragic misperception to think the individual
is not the real victim. The
credit grantors donít have to live day and night with calls from
collection agencies, and learn about new accounts falsely opened in
their names. The banks
donít fear personal financial ruin or endure the emotional impact of
not knowing whatís going to happen next ó whether itíll be a
bankruptcy filed under your name, a new luxury car charged to you,
thousands of dollars borrowed by someone claiming to be you, a
criminal record for a crime you didnít commit, or the very worst,
terrorism committed in your name.
myriad hours of research, hundreds of frustrating phone conversations,
and writing letters until my fingers ached and my mind reeled, I was
able ó after about ten months ó to regain my pristine credit
rating. But the emotional
toll was staggering. Ideally, victims shouldnít be burdened with
this task ó but thatís the way it is. Even with new identity theft insurance options, the victim
still has work to do. There
are some companies now that offer ďfraud resolution services.Ē
This is a better alternative than insurance if there is real
help in writing letters and dealing with issues, but you as the victim
still must spend many hours providing extensive information and
dealing with companies to be sure everything is handled correctly.
my own case, I was fortunate to have my legal training and my own
business, so I could devote the necessary time to get my life back.
Having researched all aspects of identity fraud, I became a
ďreluctant expertĒó by necessity, not by choice!
Soon, I became an active advocate for other victims. I was
vocal and testified before legislative hearings, and was asked to
appear on several national and local television shows, and in
magazines and newspaper articles.
I volunteered my time to testify before federal agencies and
Congress because I believe itís critical to bring this insidious
crime to the forefront, and to rally consumers to become aware and
take action to protect themselves.
spoke with hundreds of victims of identity theft who contacted me
after reading about me or seeing me on television.
I realized that sharing my journey and providing a proven
method for restoring oneís identity would be healing for me as well
as for others. Millions
of victims need help and coaching on how to move beyond this
ďidentity crisis.Ē (One in five adults will become victims
according to the FBI.) The Federal Trade Commission reported 9.9
million new victims just in 2003.
several non-profit consumer groups do fight for the rights of
identity-theft victims: The Identity Theft Resource Center (www.idtheftcenter.org);
The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (www.privacyrights.org); and U.S.
Public Interest Research Group (www.uspirg.org/calpirg); are three of
the best non-profit organizations helping victims. Still, there was no
step-by-step survival guide written for victims that included coaching
them and giving them legal letters to deal with the agencies.
So, I originally created this book in 1998 with updates in
2000, which included form letters on diskette and details of what
works and what doesnít. I shared information that I learned,
created, and developed materials- so that your ordeal would be easier
this Second Edition of the book From
Victim To Victor: A Step-By-Step Guide For Ending The Nightmare of
Identity Theft (with CD), will
facilitate your efforts and ease your concerns. The cost of this book
and CD is far less than what I would have to charge you for one
letter! Please know that I consider it a privilege to save you time
encourage you to share the advice and suggestions in this book with
your friends and family, in hopes that they can avoid, or at least be
better prepared for, what weíve gone through. This book and CD will
serve as a user-friendly coach, and allow you to be triumphant and
redeem your financial security, your emotional stability, and your
good reputation very soon. Iíve
shared my story with you, and as youíll see, I also include the
stories of other victims.
youíre reading this, youíre probably currently going through, have
gone through, or are worrying about your own identity-theft ordeal.
I know your fear, anger, and frustration; and I offer you this
guide in hopes that you can transform yourself from "Victim to
Victor" Ö just as many others have done.
Rest assured you are not alone,
and you will be victorious!
|© 2010 Porpoise Press, Inc.