I originally posted this in August 2006. Since then I have gotten clearance from the Department of Justice and nothing has changed. I still am unable to gain equitable employment. I have been stuck in part time minimum wage hell for over a year and a half now. Keep on thinking it can't happen to you.
To whom it may concern,
I wonder how many Americans think that paying their taxes, obeying the law, and working hard will benefit them. I would imagine that the majority of the populous believes that they can work hard and thrive, after all that is the American Dream, is it not? I used to believe in The American Dream. I have been taught that The Dream is just that, a Dream. The reality is that in this country no matter how hard you work and no matter how earnestly you obey the laws (even the ones that are unjust), when it comes down to it you as an American Citizen have less rights and protections than those that are in this country illegally. The wealthy of course are not included in the previous statement as they are above the law. Don't think it is so? Just look at the corporate scandals of the last decade closely.
So there's a little about the American Dream, now let me tell you about the American Nightmare.
I have lived in the United States all my life. I was born here and am a US citizen like most of the rest of the population. I attended public schools and began working at the age of sixteen. Since that time I have worked diligently, paid my taxes religiously, and obeyed the laws of Our Great Nation with the fervor of a devout follower. I ceased watching Television and listening to Radio many years ago. I became disgusted with the commercialism that saturates all media and slowly began to realize the medias effect as well as its purpose.
So basically, barring the fact that I do not participate in the mainstream media circus in this country, I am just like the rest of you. I'm an upstanding American Citizen and this is why I am completely disgusted with our Government and it's apathy towards the people that provide it with its existence. Now comes the nightmare. Imagine opening your mail one day to find that the course of the last ten years of your life has been determined by the actions of someone else. Imagine that the government found it more desirable to protect a criminal than to help you as a law-abiding citizen. Your imagination may not have to help you with this too much, for just as it has for me, it can become your reality very quickly.
I have been unemployed and seeking work for over a year and a half now. I have searched for jobs in other parts of my state as well as other parts of the country. I could not understand why I was unable to find employment. I have always been a hard worker and have experience in several different fields. I became aware as to why I wasn't employable upon opening the aforementioned mail. You see, although I have never committed a crime or been arrested I have a Criminal background that reads like a Mafia Member's rap sheet. How did this happen you ask? It's called Criminal Identity Theft. The government considers my situation "rare" and therefore will offer no assistance in resolving this matter. Let's both take a look now at what has befallen me and could just as easily happen to you, if you're an American Citizen that is. Please don't cease reading this yet as you could find yourselves in my shoes at any moment.
I stated previously that it was a piece of mail that sparked an epiphany, it wasn't a pleasant realization by any stretch. A company that I had recently applied for employment with sent the mail parcel to me. Just as the literally hundreds of employers that I have submitted resumes and letters of recommendation to in the past decade had done this company stated that they couldn't hire me. Unlike all the other companies however, this one did what they are supposed to do according to law. You see, when you are denied employment due to credit or background checks, by LAW you are supposed to be notified BY THE EMPLOYER. Ironically this company is one that I had worked for in the past. They were anxious to rehire me due to my work history with the company and the fact that I was willing to work for a laughable salary. Of course I was willing to work for peanuts, when you're starving peanuts are not only acceptable but also desirable. This company was my last resort and therein lays the irony. My last ditch effort at employment was the one that made me aware of why I have been unable to find equitable employment for almost ten years. According to local, state, and federal authorities I am a criminal.
Since at least 1997 someone has been using my full name, date of birth, and social security number to establish a criminal record. In short they have stolen my identity. This means that the struggle I have had finding a job is due not to a poor job market, not to my work history, not to a lack of effort to seek employment but is instead due to a lack of the Authorities to verify the identity of the person they arrested. In addition to the lack of responsibility the Authorities have taken, ALL of the companies I have applied with that have neglected to inform me they could not hire me due to my criminal background have been equally irresponsible. They have broken the law. I have NEVER been arrested for or convicted of any offense yet I am being penalized. What's wrong with this picture?
I am on the verge of losing my home and everything I own. I have racked up a fair amount of credit debt just trying to survive long enough to get another job. Up until I lost my job last year I had exemplary credit. I have never made a payment late and have never had charged off debt or collection activity. In other words, I have been beyond responsible when it comes to paying my bills. Now I find that I haven't been able to make a decent living because of the actions of a criminal. I have a child whom I have not been able to raise because I lacked the income to pay for litigation. "So there has to be something you can do," you are certainly thinking. Let me tell you a little about what I can do and have done so that you will know if you find yourself in the same situation. And please don't make the mistake of thinking that it can't or won't happen to you, more and more Americans are making that mistake every year. It's a mistake you may unfortunately live to deeply regret.
First I had to submit myself to local authorities for fingerprinting and a background check. Upon doing this I was told that the Authorities know who the criminal responsible for this was, but that until I am cleared through the FBI and removed from the NCIC (National Criminal Information Center) they cannot provide me with his identity. Let me put this in terms you can easily understand. This would be the same as someone robbing you, the police catching them, and then the police telling you that they can't tell you who committed a crime against you for one to three years.
After submitting the fingerprints and clear background check to the State Police I am directed to wait somewhere between thirty and sixty days to be cleared at the state level. Once the charges have been cleared at the state level I have to submit the information to the FBI and wait one to three years to be cleared at the national level. In the meantime the individual who has literally stolen ten years of my life is free (that is assuming that they are not currently incarcerated) to continue to do as they please. In the meantime I am still unable to get a job.
If I want to drive cross-country I will likely have a repeat of something I had the displeasure of experiencing last year. On my way back from the other side of the country last year I was stopped by State Troopers midway through the trip. I was detained, searched, interrogated, and then had to watch my car torn apart as the Authorities looked for non-existent contraband and drugs. I assumed it was harassment due to the fact that I was driving a small sports car with out of state tags, was I ever wrong. If I try to get on an airplane I will likely be detained and questioned and if I try to exit the country the same will apply. So who is thriving here? It seems to be the criminal who can simply steal another identity to get about.
There must be some legal recourse you're thinking. There isn't. Well let me rephrase that, if I were wealthy I would have plenty of legal options. As I stated before I am on the verge of losing everything I own so needless to say I don't have five to ten thousand dollars to drop on a high priced lawyer as a retainer. I have spoken with eight different attorneys and all have said that they would require a minimum retainer of two and a half thousand dollars to assist me. That assistance would only be in clearing my name at the national level and would not involve any monetary compensation. In other words, it's not profitable so we don't want to touch it.
I have spoken with my State Senator on the phone and been told that I am doing everything I can. Gee, thanks Congressman, I feel a lot better now about my tax dollars paying your salary. I have contacted the Federal Trade Commission, Social Security Administration, ACLU, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (who petitioned Congress to do something about this particular form of identity theft in 2004), and several other groups and agencies. The general consensus is that without money I am doing everything that can be done currently, all at my expense of course.
Perhaps the biggest insult of all comes in the form of how this will continue to affect me even once I have been cleared at the National level. For the rest of my life (that is assuming I can continue to stomach living in this country) I will have to report to the Authorities once a year. I will have to be fingerprinted and have a background check performed. Upon being cleared I will be issued documentation that I have to carry on my person AT ALL TIMES. Also, once the information is cleared from my record there is no guarantee that the Data will not once again be merged. In addition, the documentation will not prevent harassment by Police or other law enforcement agencies. After all, if they can't be bothered upon booking and incarcerating a criminal to verify their identity they're certainly not going to do much better with a routine traffic stop.
So in closing I leave you with this thought: In this country the only way to be safe from Identity Theft is to NOT be a US Citizen. If you are here illegally you can't have your identity stolen because you don't exist in the system. If you are here illegally you don't have to pay taxes to an entity that operates outside the law. If you are here illegally you have a better chance of getting medical treatment than an impoverished US Citizen. In short, if you're here illegally you are smarter than the eighty percent of the population that unwittingly hovers just above the poverty level.
God Bless America.