I had the pleasure of chatting with my friend, Eric Drew over the weekend. We first spoke over a year ago after learning of each others longtime but separate battles for justice, accountability and exposure of negligent lending industry practices and the systemic problems within the "unfair" credit reporting industry. This was a commonality and passion that Eric and I both quickly understood and identified with each other on. Eric's story though is one that is filled with strength and determination -he's gutsy and inspirational and his efforts have moved all of us who have knowledge of his courage and srength!
Five years ago, Eric Drew was on his death bed with leukemia when his identity was stolen by a worker at the hospital where he was being treated. Credit was issued in his name to a fraudulent address in Washington State, where he was hospitalized but wasn't a resident. Eric alleges that the banks did not verify the address or applications, and that when he called to complain from his hospital bed, he was told to submit paperwork to prove that it wasn't him.
Eric fought the system and won his first legal battle, becoming the first person to win a federal criminal conviction under the Health Information Privacy (HIPAA) laws -but his battle for justice is far from over -he's about to go to trial up against giants in both the lending and credit industries.
Eric's current legal battle could set an important precedent. Eric is fighting back. His landmark federal case is one of the first to succeed in holding on to the claim of "negligent issuance of credit". As Eric adamantly and so rightfully points out, "Negligently issuing credit is the cause of the current mortgage crisis, the financial meltdown, and is also the root cause of the identity theft epidemic. If there was any diligence on issuing credit, would criminals be able to so easily open accounts in other people's names? "
Eric expands..."The industry sets an acceptable level of risk that they take on behalf of the consumer by negligently issuing credit without verifying the identity of the applicant. They know that a certain percent of the credit they issue will be fraudulent, but that level is acceptable for them to maximize their short term profits. The problem is that they take this risk on behalf of the consumers that have their financial identity ruined by having credit issued in their name to an impostor, and it is time we put a stop to this flagrant violation of the American identity"
In Eric's case, Citibank, Chase, and Bank of America issued credit in Eric's name to a hospital worker where Eric was on his deathbed fighting against leukemia. They did absolutely no verification of the applications whatsoever or they would easily have found out that this was a case of identity theft. Instead, they opened multiple accounts and ignored Eric when he called begging them to shut down the attack.
Not only was Eric forced to risk his life and leave the hospital to catch the perpetrator since the banks and credit agencies, namely Experian and Equifax, did nothing to stop the fraud accounts from being reported, but they proceeded to report these accounts 90 days past due on Eric's credit for over 2 years afterward, ruining his credit score and causing him to be denied 2 mortgage applications.
Eric's trial which will be presided over by San Francisco Federal Judge Susan Illston is scheduled to begin April 13th 2009. Consumer advocate groups all over the country are holding their breath and crossing their fingers that justice will prevail, and that the defendants Citibank, Bank of America, Chase, Equifax and Experian will be held accountable for the alleged calculated violations, of consumer privacy and of the Fair Credit Reporting Act which have victimized the lives of tens of millions of Americans over the last few years alone -and if not exposed, for years to come.
For those of you that haven't heard of
Eric's remarkable battles
in which he fights for both his life and justice, you can read the in depth expose that was done by
Eric isn't just fighting against corporate Goliath's -he's also established the
Eric Drew Foundation
-a foundation that provides advocacy and education for seriously ill patients and their families.