A Case of Stolen Identity

Usually, nightmares end a few moments after you wake up. But for Paul Fairchild, his nightmare lasted several years and threatened to take over his life.

Fairchild, now an Edmond resident, lived in California about five years ago when he became a victim of identity theft. When the problem surfaced, he wasn’t even sure what identity theft was. Now he’s an expert.

Fairchild discovered his predicament when he went to rent a tuxedo for his sister’s wedding. His American Express credit card was declined, which surprised him. Later, he called the credit card company, which reported that he hadn’t paid the bills on several of his cards.

“I said, ‘What cards?’ I didn’t know exactly what was being done to me,” he said. “It was a big cloud of uncertainty.”
But Fairchild was soon to learn the details. Someone had assumed his identity to make purchases he’d never dreamed of. A corporate account with several card holders had been created. A building in New York was purchased and a business started in his name: the Black Passion Escort Service. “It’s awesome; I was a pimp,” he said. “I can laugh about it now.”
Someone also went on a shopping spree on Fifth Avenue, buying hundreds of dollars’ worth of shoes. Dozens of cell phone accounts were taken out in his name, and a car was rented and never returned. In total, about $800,000 had been spent in his name, he said.

Fairchild began researching identity theft and started the long process of clearing his name. Credit card companies often couldn’t provide much information, he said, and debt collectors were even less pleasant to deal with. They only wanted one thing: for his bills to be paid, and as far as they knew, he was the only Paul Fairchild responsible.

“It became a full-time job,” he said. “It took me three years to get it solidly fixed.”

Debt collectors began calling him at work, and he had to take time out from his job to try to fix problem after problem. His wife and new baby were swept into the nightmare as well because their home phone rang constantly. The mailbox, too, piled up with collection letters. Fairchild was even summoned by the state of New York to appear in court to explain the mortgage.

“It was really, really stressful,” he said. “I was on the phone all the time, and you have to talk to the credit card company when it’s convenient for them. I was sending out dozens of letters, and everything had to be notarized. It’s $10 per copy in California.”

When all was said and done, Fairchild said he’d spent thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees in four states to reclaim his identity. The cost was significant monetarily and in the toll it took on his life.

His nightmare may have ended, but the crime of identity theft is a growing one, Fairchild said. He is able to look back now with some humor, he said, but people shouldn’t have to keep looking over their shoulders to see if someone just like them is wreaking havoc. Several companies now exist to help people protect themselves from identity theft, he said, and an Internet search reveals the choices. Many of them are excellent, he said, and he recommends researching a company before signing up.

“I wish they had been around when this all happened to me,” he said.

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