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My wife and I were suspicious that her SS# was being used since a couple of unpaid bills that was not our appeared on her credit report. We have been trying to find out for over a year, including filing a police report. It took CheckMySSN under 1 minute to give us the answer. Yes some one else appeared in another state using her SS#. Now we have the tools to stop it.

Lynda R. - Sugar Land , TX


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Identity Theft in the News

The Guenterberg's SSN Theft Nightmare

 

Recently Robert Guenterberg went in to refinance his land and the bank reported that his credit had dropped 200 points in the past two weeks. Why? Well he had been foreclosed on.  Recently Robert Guenterberg went in to refinance his land and the bank reported that his credit had dropped 200 points in the past two weeks. Why? Well he had been foreclosed upon in Addison, Illinois a few weeks back it turns out - a place he doesn't live and a place he doesn't own property.

Over the years Bob had been denied home loans, vehicle loans and other credit loans and he never knew why, until just a few years ago when they received a call from a collection agency.

This recent refinance is not the first time the Guenterbergs have had to deal with identity theft and Bob's wife Debra sent me the letter below which shows it probably won't be the last time. Debra Guenterberg's husband Bob had his identity stolen by two Hispanic males, which they have used for over 10 years, more than 8 of those without the Guenterbergs knowing. Enrique Jimenez bought a house using Bob's Social Security number and obtained jobs throughout Illinois with it. Cornelio Suarez also bought a house and is the one who was recently foreclosed upon in Addison. A warrant has been issued for his arrest - though he hasn't been found yet.While it is not known whether Suarez or Jimenez are illegal aliens, evidence points in that direction as it is believed that the two initially used the Social Security number to obtain employment. We do know however that identity theft on a vast scale is being used by illegal aliens in this country. Bob is just one of the many American victims of identity theft and our government is doing little to correct the rampant identity fraud that is occurring in this country.Debra is a courageous woman who has gone to extraordinary lengths and spent over 1200 hours just in the past 2 years - all uncompensated of course - to try and repair all the damage done to their finances and lives. Debra sent me this letter on her battle:

My husband's SSN has been being used by 2 male Hispanics for over 10 years.

... if someone uses their own name but your SSN to work, the IRS and SSA tell employers on their web-sites that they cannot terminate or take any action against an employee for failing to provide the employer with a valid SSN. So the employer knows that the employee is not using a "valid" SSN ... The SSN identity theft then takes this along with their fraudulent driver's license, opens up a checking and savings with their name but YOUR SSN. Then the thief gets a credit card with their name with YOUR SSN. Then the thief gets a home loan with their name and YOUR SSN.

Lenders do not authenticate that the SSN really belongs to the identity theif.  They rely solely on the credit reporting agencies.

The identity thief has established their own credit report using their name but YOUR SSN. Any loans or credit they have obtained with YOUR SSN will not show up on YOUR credit reports [It won't show up when you look, but it does affect your credit as you'll see below -Digger]. The credit bureaus allow this SSN identity theft as they make more money on YOUR SSN. The FTC knows the credit bureaus are doing this and since the credit obtained using YOUR SSN but in the identity thieves name does not appear on YOUR credit reports the FCRA [Fair Credit Reporting Act] only covers YOUR credit report.

Neither the IRS or the SSA will tell you that they know that someone is working with YOUR SSN because they claim that Federal Law prevents them. They claim that under IRS code 6103 and the Privacy Law they are prevented from doing so. I totally disagree and actually believe that these federal laws actually allow the IRS and SSA to let you know that SSN identity fraud of YOUR SSN has occurred.

These federal agencies send letters to the employers and to the identity thieves letting them know that the name/ssn is a "no-match". Ummm-no wonder we as taxpayers had to bail-out these lenders and creditors.

By the way, the men who used my husband's SSN may not even be American citizens. Law enforcement tells us that they just want the "AMERICAN DREAM"! Contact your legislators and good luck as most of them will send you back to law enforcement (who laugh) and tell you to report the fraud to the 3 major credit bureaus (this is where I laugh).

- Debra Guenterberg
  

It's a political game that is being played that is impacting all Americans directly because it puts every American - even our children and grandchildren - at risk. There have been numerous cases over the years of kids going to get their first jobs or college loans and finding out that they have destroyed credit even though they've never used it.

One thing that Debra doesn't mention in her letter above, but she does in the video below, is that SSN's are used on so many documents that you may one day wake up to find out that your credit scores is not the only thing affected, but that Social Services is sending you a notice that you owe child support for some stranger's kids.

Debra recently did an interview with George Curtis on the It's Your Law program detailing the incompetence, lack of concern and barriers that exist in our government for the victims of identity theft. Curtis described identity theft as a "national disease".

Take a few moments and watch Debra below and hear the struggles that she has gone through. While the interview doesn't express the true frustration and effects on their home lives, that I'm sure you can imagine occurring, it gives you a glimpse into what an identity theft victim has gone through.   

For more on the Guenterberg's struggle - and identity theft in general - see this June 2008 article from the Journal Sentinel   Sources: JSWCCC

Odyssey into ID theft

Man spends year bouncing from agency to agency to reclaim stolen credit, even as suspects are known

For years, Robert Guenterberg wondered why he had a hard time getting credit.

A home loan. A Chase Bank card. A line of credit to buy a Ford truck. The Wisconsin man was denied them all but had no idea why.

In March 2007, a call from a collection agency tipped him off.

Two men in Illinois had stolen his identity. The men had landed jobs, bought property and had gotten loans using their own names and Guenterberg's Social Security number. They also had run up debts that ruined Guenterberg's credit.

But that was just the beginning of Guenterberg's problems.

In the past year, the 44-year-old Princeton resident has been bounced around at least a dozen federal and state agencies and law enforcement departments in a desperate attempt to clean up his credit and reclaim his Social Security number.

The hard lesson he's learned? Victims of identity theft often must sort through the mind-numbing, circular nightmare alone.

Guenterberg says he's gotten little help from law enforcement or the IRS - just one federal agency that should have known multiple people were using his identity.

"This is not going to ever be over with," Guenterberg said. He estimates that he and his wife have spent more than 800 hours trying to sort out the problem.

The alleged thieves are not exactly hiding.

The men, Cornelio Suarez and Enrique Jimenez, have used Guenterberg's Social Security number to secure credit or work at various jobs in Illinois since at least 1999, according to IRS records and a credit report obtained by Guenterberg and reviewed by Public Investigator.

Jimenez owns a single-family home in Cicero, a town on the edge of Chicago where Al Capone moved to escape from Chicago police.

Jimenez even refinanced his mortgage - which is tied to Guenterberg's Social Security number - nine months after the Guenterbergs placed a fraud alert on Robert's credit report, the couple said.

Public Investigator tried to track down Jimenez, but he couldn't be reached.

Last year Suarez, transferred two pieces of property to his wife. A woman who answered the phone at one of the homes said she didn't know a "Cornelio" and didn't know who owned the building.

The Guenterbergs have had trouble getting law enforcement to investigate and makes arrests.

"I don't see how hard this can be," said Guenterberg's wife, Debra.

No. 1 complaint

Identity theft was the No. 1 consumer complaint in the United States last year, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

U.S. officials say more than 8 million people were victimized in 2005, the most recent year statistics are available.

Most victims of identity theft spend months or longer trying to fix the problem. But even after the thief stops using their information, victims can continue to have trouble for more than a decade, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center, a nonprofit group that tries to educate consumers.

That includes high interest rates on credit cards, increased insurance and credit card fees and endless battles with collection agencies and companies that refuse to clear their records despite evidence of the crime.

The Guenterbergs first filed an identity theft report with Detective Chad Holdorf of the Sheriff's Department in Green Lake County, where the couple live.

Holdorf faxed the report to several police and sheriff's departments in Illinois. He couldn't issue charges himself because nothing criminal happened in Green Lake County.

Eventually the Elmhurst City Police Department in Illinois picked up the case and filed criminal charges against Suarez after he bought a truck at a local dealership using Guenterberg's Social Security number.

But the warrant for Suarez still needs to be served.

No one appears to be going after Jimenez.

In interviews with the P.I. Team, officers with various departments and agencies said they didn't have jurisdiction or hadn't determined what crime Jimenez committed.

The Guenterbergs think the IRS records, mortgage documents and the men's credit reports are evidence enough.

The Milwaukee office of the FBI looked into the case, but the U.S. attorney's office wouldn't issue charges because the crimes occurred in Illinois, said David Gorr, the FBI's acting assistant special agent in charge.

The FBI tried to get other law enforcement agencies to take the case, but the agency can't force another department to investigate, Gorr said.

"We are trying to find a way to help if possible," he said.

The FBI said it referred the case to Wisconsin's Division of Criminal Investigations. The division said it had no comment.

The DuPage County Office of the State's Attorney issued the charges for Suarez and said at least four agencies in Illinois have tried to apprehend him. As for Jimenez, the office suggested that Wisconsin law might apply and that the district attorney in Green Lake County, where the Guenterberg's live, could possibly handle the case.

Winn Collins, district attorney in Green Lake County, said he just received paperwork from DuPage County and would look into the case this week.

IRS should have known

The IRS should have known for years that two other men have been using Guenterberg's Social Security number.

It's unclear why both men decided to use Guenterberg's number or how they obtained it. The men had given their employers Guenterberg's number, presumably so they could work legally in this country. The employers reported the wages to the IRS using Guenterberg's Social Security number, thus linking the thieves to the Wisconsin man.

Thirty-two pages of IRS records that Guenterberg showed Public Investigator include dozens of financial transactions involving the three men - all tied to one Social Security number. Wages paid to Suarez and Jimenez from various jobs pop up frequently.

Suarez made at least $175,000 while working at McDonald's since 2003, records show.

Mortgage interest payments are listed among the IRS records too.

Jimenez paid nearly $14,000 in mortgage interest to Wells Fargo.

Until last week the IRS has said that it could not contact individual taxpayers about tax-related issues because that could violate confidentiality laws. There are exceptions to those laws, but identity theft was not among them.

After questions from the P.I. Team, the IRS' legal counsel decided last week that the agency could legally alert taxpayers if they might be a victim of identity theft, according to an internal watchdog group for the IRS. That group, the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate, has been pushing the agency to explicitly notify taxpayers when they might be a victim.

Early notification means taxpayers wouldn't spend years in the dark, giving identity thieves more time to do more harm, said Nina Olson who heads the IRS' own watchdog group.

"The whole process of (resolving) an identity theft puts the burden on the victim," Olson said. "(They spend) half of their waking hours tracking down this stuff. They are being victimized a second time."

Olson said the IRS should be on the forefront of dealing with identity theft since it is the one federal agency that most U.S. adults have contact with every year when they file a tax return. The agency said it will soon establish a centralized location within the IRS for victims and said it is adding other safeguards to help.

Guenterberg eventually got some assistance from the IRS so his name is no longer tied to the income generated by Jimenez and Suarez. A "tax advocate" from the IRS purged the earnings from Guenterberg's account. That was important because Guenterberg receives disability benefits and hasn't worked in years after hurting his back while delivering beer. Because of the identity theft, Guenterberg could have lost his disability benefits unless he proved the income wasn't his.

Even with some late help from the IRS, Guenterberg's problems are far from over.

He can't get credit at many stores, and the identity thieves still have loans and credit that are tied to Guenterberg's Social Security number.

Major companies that extended that credit or now handle the accounts - including Countrywide Home Loans and Washington Mutual Bank - wouldn't comment on the situation.

To get a mortgage for his new home in 2004, Guenterberg had to convince a local bank that he didn't know why his credit looked so bad. He ended up paying cash for the land and building materials.

While Guenterberg is annoyed he has a hard time getting credit, he's mostly worried that he'll be connected to the thieves his entire life.

"Once they stop paying for this stuff, it is all going to come crumbling down on me," he said.

 

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