ID Theft

Someone gets your social, ruins your credit, upends your life. And gets away free and clear.

Investigators were able to verify that the woman living at the address was the suspect, and Brewer secured an arrest warrant.

"That's a lot more work than just putting a photo in a photo lineup and going to show it to somebody, but that's the way we'd normally do it," Brewer says.

Even when there is an arrest, the punishment isn't stiff enough, says Tami Neal of LifeLock.

Brandon Sharp found out his identity had been stolen after fraudulent charges started showing up on his credit report, including a $19,000 Life Flight transport bill.
Daniel Kramer
Brandon Sharp found out his identity had been stolen after fraudulent charges started showing up on his credit report, including a $19,000 Life Flight transport bill.
Assistant District Attorney John Brewer says even when he catches the bad guys, he can't make them forget the stolen social security numbers they've already memorized and passed on to associates.
Daniel Kramer
Assistant District Attorney John Brewer says even when he catches the bad guys, he can't make them forget the stolen social security numbers they've already memorized and passed on to associates.

"If you robbed a bank today, chances are you might get $500, and when you get caught, you're going to serve some years in prison," she says. "But if you go in a bank and pose as John Smith using stolen information, the amount of money you can get is endless. And then if you're caught, you get probation."
_____________________

The hardest charge for Brandon Sharp to get removed was the child support.

He called the attorney general's office daily to try to persuade someone that he didn't have any children. As often as possible, he tried to speak with someone different from before, and after six months, he reached someone who helped him. "They took it off, and I haven't seen it on there since, which is a good thing," Sharp says.

Other things keep coming back. Sometimes the charges are repeats from old collection agencies, and every so often, a new medical bill will pop up from Arkansas or California or some other state.

"I guess the credit agency isn't astute enough to figure out that they just took it off. It'll get back on and you have to dispute it again," he says. "It happens all the time. You think everything's fine, and then it's not fine. Then it's a mad scramble to get it cleaned up."

In six years, Sharp says his feelings have changed from helpless to angry because he'd been done wrong, and now he's "kind of callous to it," calling it "just one of those life things you have to take care of."

"I don't turn to alcohol or anything like that," he says.

Not long after Sharp found out about his identity getting stolen, the oil and gas company where he works had "sensitive data" stolen, and Sharp was on the list as one of the compromised names. The company paid for six months with TrustedID, an identity protection service, and Sharp now pays $100 a month to stay with the company, money he'll pay for the rest of his life, he says, for some kind of peace of mind.

Identity theft hasn't ruined his life. Sharp got married, and even though he was once afraid he wouldn't get a loan for a house, he did for the place in Spring. He's accepted the hassles with credit bureaus and the fear in the back of his mind of what's around the corner.

But he wants to know ­something about James Banks Jr.

"Obviously hospitals have cameras. I'm sure I could spend lots of money that I don't have to hire a private investigator to get this information, because they wouldn't give it to me," Sharp says.

He hasn't, and he knows probably no one will ever be able to tell him a thing.

"You try to figure out what you did wrong, but I don't know how it happened," Sharp says. "You're pretty much out there on your own."

paul.knight@houstonpress.com

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