ASK THE GENERAL COUNSEL
Security Clearance Attorney Sean M. Bigley represents clients worldwide in security clearance denials and revocations. He is a former investigator for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. For more information, please visit www.bigleylaw.com
(Part 1 of a 2 Part Series on Dealing with Identity Theft for Cleared Professionals)
I get the phone call regularly: “I just received a security clearance denial under Guideline ‘F’ (financial considerations), but these delinquent accounts on my credit report aren’t mine. What can I do?”
Fortunately, quite a bit. It is just going to take some diligence and hard work on your part…
Immediately contact one (1) of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax) by phone and have an initial fraud alert placed on your account. This is easy to do, and the credit bureau you call will share the fraud information with the other two credit bureaus, making your job that much easier. The problem? Your telephonic fraud alert will last for only 90 days and will not result in removal of the fraudulent accounts from your credit report.
Take a copy of your credit report to your local police department and file an identity theft report. Now, having actually been a police officer early in my career, I can tell you that there is nothing a cop hates more than report writing (AKA “taking paper”). No matter how hard the officer tries to get out of taking a police report – a common excuse is “it’s a waste of time without suspect information” – you have to keep forcing the issue. Talk to a supervisor if necessary. Whatever you do, get a crime report. (Note that this is different than an “incident report,” which, in many jurisdictions, is nothing more than a quick notation in the dispatch logs and a way that lazy officers placate crime victims while avoiding work). The report needs to be specific and detailed, listing each fraudulent account by name and account number, as well as outlining any proof you have that the accounts are fraudulent. For example: a utility account opened in California during a time when you have proof you were living in Florida. Make sure that you walk out of the police station with a report number in hand and a date that the report will be ready for pickup.
Once you obtain your completed police report (which can take a few days or more), make a photo-copy and put your copy of the report in a safe place. Prepare and send a Certified Letter to one (1) of the three major credit bureaus (ideally the one you called to have the initial alert placed) that provides the following:
- Your full legal name, any prior names used, date of birth and social security number
- Your address and telephone number
- A statement that you are a victim of identity theft and a request that a permanent (7 year) fraud alert be placed on your profile
- Identification of each account that is fraudulent and any supporting information (e.g. I have never shopped at this merchant, I’ve never lived in that state, etc.)
- A signature and date
Attach a copy of the police report to the letter, and be sure to save a copy of the letter for your records.
Contact a qualified Security Clearance Attorney. Getting your records in order is a crucial first step, but it is only half the battle. There are additional steps an attorney can take from a legal standpoint to help bolster your case and prove to the government’s satisfaction (a) that you are a victim and (b) that you have acted responsibly under the circumstances.
Finally, don’t ever become complacent. Once your identity has been stolen, you must monitor it in perpetuity to ensure you are avoiding additional problems down the road. I have had clients seemingly resolve identity theft issues only to have new fraudulent accounts pop-up years later. The best solution? Sign-up for a real-time credit monitoring service that will alert you immediately if anyone tries to open an account in your name.
This article is intended as general information only and should not be construed as legal advice. Consult an attorney regarding your specific situation.