My story starts on February 7, 1996, when Bank of America, where I have my checking account, sent me two second party checks that had been returned to them because the accounts they had been written on were closed. Both check were payable to me and had my checking account and driver's license numbers on them. They had been cashed by someone impersonating me at two different branches of B of A.
When I advised Bank of America that these were not my checks, I had never seen them before and someone had forged my signature, they said they would send me an affidavit of fraud but the amount of the two checks ($1960.50) would be deducted from my checking account balance until the investigation was completed. It wasn't until March 1, three weeks later, that I received a letter stating the investigation was complete and the $1960.50 would be credited back to my account.
The first time I contacted the Los Angeles Police Department, they told me to notify my bank. When I spoke with a detective a second time, he said they would take a report from the bank affidavit.
Because the impersonator had my driver's license number, I went to DMV to see if I could get a new number. I brought a letter from Bank of America stating someone was impersonating me using a fake driver's license with my number to cash bad checks. I also had copies of the two checks with my license number and the banks affidavits of forgery. I was told by the California Department of Motor Vehicles that they wouldn't change the number unless I had a police report.
I called the LAPD again and this time they said I couldn't file a police report because I was not the victim, the bank was the victim because they will suffer the loss.
I was in a Catch 22 situation. I had proof that someone was illegally using my drivers license number but couldn't get a new one because I couldn't get a police report. I couldn't get a police report because I wasn't the victim, it wasn't against the law to use someone else's identity.
This was just the beginning. March 31, 1996, 1 received a call regarding my overdue Circuit City account. My response was, "What account?" I seems the impersonator opened a charge account at Circuit City on Feb. 5, 1996, and charged $5400 in February and $51 00 in March, a total of $10,500. The application Circuit City had for the account had my name, drivers license number, and Social Security number. They closed the account and sent me an affidavit of forgery which had to either be notarized or completed in front of a Circuit City store manager.
I immediately contacted the three credit reporting bureaus and advised them I was a victim of fraud and requested copies of my credit report. It took TRW (now Experian) about four weeks and Equifax and Trans Union about six weeks to send the reports. All three showed numerous new accounts opened on February 6, 1996. Also, a secured Mastercard had been issued by Sterling Bank in December, 1995. In addition to my name, driver's license, and social security number, this individual also had a 'major credit card' to show as a credit reference.
I then began the task of contacting each fraudulent account and advising them of the situation. In every case I had to complete an affidavit of fraud, some of which had to be notarized. Because most of the accounts had been opened in the Culver City area, I called the Culver City Police Department. I got the same response that I had gotten from the LAPD, I was not the victim and they couldn't take a report.
Next, I discovered that a checking account that had been opened in my name using my ID (drivers license, social security number, and mothers maiden name) at Great Western Bank in Beverly Hills. I called the Beverly Hills Police Department. Again I was told they couldn't take a report because I wasn't the victim. (This was beginning to sound like a broken record. If I wasn't a victim, what was I?)
By now, I had evidence that my driver's license number had not only been used on bad checks but to open fraudulent credit accounts. I went back to the Department of Motor Vehicles in early May to again try to get a new number. The clerk pulled up my records in the computer and asked me if I had ever gotten a DMV ID card. When I told her I hadn't, she said one was issued in December, 1995, and the address on my file had been changed. All this time I thought the impostor had been using a forged driver's license, now I found out she had the real thing! DMV still wouldn't issue a new number even though they had proof they had issued an ID card with my name and drivers license number to someone else.
Since I had gotten the address that was used on the applications, I went to the Post Office and had everything in my name forwarded from that address to my real address. I started receiving notices about other past due accounts including PacTel and AirTouch Cellular.
The most amazing mail that was forwarded were past due bills from a hospital, a cardiologist, pathologists, and labs. This woman had been in the hospital using my ID! What if she had died?
I had contacted the Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, and Culver City police departments as well and the Secret Service and they all kept telling me I wasn't the victim since I hadn't suffered any financial loss. What about the time it took to undo all that had been done? The letters I had to write, the phone calls, my credit rating, my good name? I've spent hours trying to repair the damage. Every time I think it's over there's something else. Last month, two years after it all began, I received another letter from a collection agency.
Finally I got a lucky break. Food For Less, a local market, turned over to the Hawthorne Police Department a check payable to me they had cashed that turned out to be stolen from a school. The police were finally involved. I spoke with Detective Greg Chidley and send him copies of all the information I had collected. He checked the DMV records and got a photo and fingerprints of the woman who had been using my ID. With this information he was able to track down her down within a few weeks. She was apparently just a pawn in a bigger operation and told Det. Chidley the name and location of the ring leader. He was arrested on eight felony counts about three weeks after I first got in touch with Det. Chidley. It was over. I was finally able to get a police report so I could go back to DMV for a new driver's license number
I've always been very careful with any paperwork that has account numbers or personal information. I've been using a paper shredder for years and, before that, would either cut or tear up receipts and papers. I even cover my hand when entering my PIN number at an ATM! I've never been able to find out how my personal information was obtained. Det. Chidley thinks it may have been an inside job at a bank or a business but we'll never know.
It's frustrating knowing that I had done all I could to protect myself and there is still no way of preventing this from happening. My only hope is that the State and Federal Governments will take action.
Something needs to be done to protect honest citizens. I've learned how easy it is to obtain someone else's identity and how easy it is to get away with it. The police only get involved if brought in by one of the businesses who suffer the loss. Unfortunately, these businesses usually just write the losses off. They don't mind because easy credit brings in more money.
What needs to be done?
As legislators and representatives of the people, you should do all possible to
find ways to safeguard individuals identity and privacy.
Home | Menu | Links | Info | Chairman's Page