A 68-year-old Denver woman went to a car dealer to buy a new car. The car dealer’s salesman checked her credit score online. There he found that she was on a “suspected drug trafficker” list.
The entry went back to 2005. She did not know anything about this.
There was no problem with her credit.
The woman on the list had a similar name.
She did not know this: the credit reports issued to businesses are different from the reports issued to individuals who ask to see them.
Did you know? Not many people do.
The ordeal engulfed the grandmother for the next five years. Her many attempts to fix the problem with TransUnion and the federal government on her own all failed. Cortez pleaded with the credit-reporting agency to correct her credit history but received no help.
She eventually hired Jim Francis, a consumer-law attorney in Philadelphia, and sued TransUnion. Cortez endured a grueling legal battle that included a trial and years of appeals. She originally was awarded $750,000 by a jury, but that later was reduced to $150,000. And the government took about a third of it in taxes.
The woman had been placed on the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control list. Her name was similar to the suspect’s.
The Patriot Act requires businesses to report suspects. It is a crime not to report them.
Here is my recommendation. Buy identity theft insurance. I buy mine through my homeowners policy. It costs under $100 a year. The cost of getting out from under an identity mix-up can be high.
For the details of her time in the car dealership, read the full story.