68-year-old car buyer mistaken for terrorist due to credit report

Madison Ruppert, Contributor
Activist Post

Sandra Cortez got a lot more than she bargained for when she went to buy a new car and within an hour was threatened with calls to the FBI by the staff at the Denver dealership she went to.

Cortez’s ludicrous encounter is far from the first and will almost certainly not be the last case of someone being confused with a terrorist or international criminal simply due to a similar or shared name and then being treated as such.

In this instance, Cortez was unlucky enough to happen to share her name with someone on a government list suspected terrorists, international drug traffickers and even people associated with weapons of mass destruction.

The 68-year-old grandmother and accountant clearly is none of those things, but it didn’t stop her from being forced to struggle over the mistake from 2005 to 2010.

The false information came up on Cortez’s credit report, which she believed was perfectly clean and showed her to have excellent credit having checked it out before going into the car dealership.

Unfortunately, little did Cortez know, the credit report she was issued was not the same as the one issued to the dealership. The one the dealership saw linked her to a Colombian drug trafficker with what the Atlanta Journal-Constitution calls “a similar name.”

Indeed, it appears that the only name they actually share is their first names. The spelling of their last names is not even the same.

Cortez then had to spend years attempting to get TransUnion and the federal government to amend her record to no avail.

After much pleading in vain, she was forced to hire a consumer-law attorney named Jim Francis in order to sue TransUnion.

Even this proved to be a major struggle for Cortez. The process included a trial, appeals and even a reduction of the funds she was awarded.

Originally, she was awarded $750,000 by a jury (from which the government would take their cut, of course) after which it was reduced to $150,000 (also before taxes).

When asked for comment, the lobbying group which speaks for TransUnion refused to address the case and the current owners of the dealership – which was the John Elway Subaru dealership at that time – were unfamiliar with the events and thus declined to comment as well.

“I thought I would be driving my new car back to work after lunch,” Cortez said, remembering that March 31st in 2005. “I couldn’t imagine what would happen next.”

What happened next was something which many people would dread: being told that you are on the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) list, meaning you are suspected of being a terrorist or involved with major international criminal activity.

Apparently, the OFAC Advisor at TransUnion had, for some strange reason, confused Cortez with the Columbian drug trafficker Sandra Cortes Quintera.

This mistake led to a whopping five years of work in an attempt to get the false information removed, all because of an errant employee somewhere along the line.

Thankfully, Cortez wasn’t actually arrested, jailed or beaten while being confused for another person. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if such a thing were to happen in today’s world.

Did I forget anything or miss any errors? Would you like to make me aware of a story or subject to cover? Or perhaps you want to bring your writing to a wider audience? Feel free to contact me at [email protected] with your concerns, tips, questions, original writings, insults or just about anything that may strike your fancy.

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This article first appeared at End the Lie.

Madison Ruppert is the Editor and Owner-Operator of the alternative news and analysis database End The Lie and has no affiliation with any NGO, political party, economic school, or other organization/cause. He is available for podcast and radio interviews. Madison also now has his own radio show on Orion Talk Radio from 8 pm — 10 pm Pacific, which you can find HERE.  If you have questions, comments, or corrections feel free to contact him at [email protected]

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