It was 2011. She was just 7 years old when it started. There were debt collectors calling the house, and other calls from a credit monitoring company about credit cards opened under the child's Social Security number.
When it started
Jill Carlon remembers the first call she received.
"I was thinking it's got to be a mistake because there's no way my little girl opened credit anywhere,"
Carlon was told she there was a JCPenney card opened at Arizona Mills under the girl's number.
"I just thought well I just live down the road and I'll just take my little girl and her identification and close this account," Carlon said. "I found out quickly that's not how it works."
Carlon was told yes, the account is under her daughter's Social Security number. But since her Social Security number doesn't match the account holder's name, she can't close the accounts. And the company won't tell her the name of the woman who opened them.
"Because privacy laws protect her," Carlon said.
Pretty soon there were more calls for more fraudulent accounts. One for Fry's Electronics, then Dillards.
"I just started calling local branches of banks trying to get more information and I discovered there was a bank account at a bank in Ahwatukee," she said.
Carlon closed that account. But by the next day there were two more accounts opened at another bank by the same impostor using the same Social Security number.
"At that time we started to get collection calls to our home for a local Radisson hotel," Carlon said. "Apparently there was some sort of business conference for a company called My Brother's Keeper."
Learning the name behind the accounts
My Brother's Keeper Lifeline is registered as an Arizona 501c3 non-profit. We'll revisit that issue later. It turns out the founder of the charity, Jacqueline Harris was opening the accounts. With this information, Carlon thought Social Security would just give her daughter a new number.
"We found out quickly that's a no-go. They're not going to do that. And if we wanted some sort of resolution with a new number we would have to prosecute and actually see this to the end," she said. "So that's what we decided to do."
The wheels of justice moved slowly, but by 2014 Harris pleaded guilty to one count of possession of a forgery device. That deal was bargained down from the 6 felony counts a Phoenix Police detective first arrested her for. She was sentenced to 3 years of probation.
As for that new Social Security number? Denied again.
"They informed me I was not getting a new number and if I was serious I would have changed my little girl's name," Carlon said.
Carlon believes a new Social Security number is their best chance of distancing the girl from the criminal record and negative credit history. So they obliged. They changed the girl's first and middle name. But when they returned to the Social Security office, she was denied again. She said Social Security wanted her to change the child's last name. Carlon said that was not going to happen.
Fast forward to 2017, Carlon received another phone call. Someone tried to open another credit card with the girl's number. Peoria Police said they are actively investigating this latest case. An arrest could help Carlon get her daughter a new Social Security number because the Social Security Administration requires proof on ongoing misuse of the number.
In an email sent to ABC15, a spokesperson with the Social Security Administration wrote:
If someone decides to apply for a new number because his or her own number is being misused, he or she would need to prove their identity, age, and U.S. citizenship or immigration status. He or she will also need to provide evidence of the ongoing problems because of the misuse. The evidence should be from third-parties and from multiple sources (credit reporting agencies, police departments, prosecuting attorney, etc.)
Carlon said she has provided six years of documentation. She showed us police reports, letters from a prosecutor and detectives, and proof of the conviction. The agency still refuses to issue a new number.
Credit experts tell us the problem may never go away. Though the credit bureaus create an alternative "clean" report for the victim, often when the victim applies for credit, the bad credit history of the imposter will surface.
"We've seen kids who tried to apply for internships, but due to criminal records they couldn't pass a background check even though the crimes were committed maybe when they were 10 years old," said Jamie May, spokesperson for AllClear ID, a credit monitoring company.
May said many times the losses identity theft victims suffer are in missed opportunities. Employers may pass them over because the impostor's credit history bleeds over and appears to belong to the victim.
Who is this non-profit CEO and what is My Brother's Keeper?
According to court paperwork, Jacqueline Harris has a grand theft conviction in California. We also obtained paperwork regarding an embezzlement-related warrant for her arrest from 1994 until 2004, but the case was thrown out for unknown reasons. Walgreens filed a $1 million dollar judgment against her and her business MBK Prodigy Consulting Group last summer for defaulting on the lease of a commercial property in Maricopa. However, these financial crimes and the civil case do not preclude her from running a non-profit in Arizona.
"She was smooth," said Richard Hall from the Maricopa Veteran's Center. "She seemed to have herself up 100 percent every time she walked through the door."
Harris is listed as a CEO for My Brother's Keeper Lifeline. The non-profit advertises and accepts donations for services like veteran's wellness. Hall has been trying to reach Harris for several weeks after she dropped off flyers for a "Veteran's Stand-down" that was to be held at Copper Sky Recreation Center on March 29 and 30.
"They wanted to promote it in Maricopa and they wanted us to take flyers and go around and get people to commit," Hall said.
Businesses specifically, he said. So the veterans promoted it. It turned out the flyers were for a phony event. An events coordinator at Copper Sky told us it was never on their calendar.
"They had no idea of it," Hall said.
Harris also pitched the event at the Phoenix Military Veterans Commission meeting in January. My Brother's Keeper also has a donation website which shows contributions from Walmart.
A school administrator from Crossroads Academy in Tonopah said Harris agreed to write grants and fundraise for the small school through her business MBK Prodigy Consultants. Crossroads paid her $2,500, and said she didn't raise any money and stopped returning their phone calls. The administrator said they did not plan to take any action, assuming that was the cost of doing business.
We attempted to ask Harris about the event and the identity theft case. We also want to know why she doesn't disclose her felony conviction on her charity's paperwork that's filed with the state. Under the law, charity officers have to disclose felonies in which the essential elements "consisted of fraud, misrepresentation, theft by false pretenses or restraint of trade or monopoly" within the five year period before the annual report is filed. We stopped at the My Brother's Keeper address she last listed with the state on Rio Grande Dr. in Maricopa Suite 128. There was no suite there, just a single family home. We stopped at several business and home addresses linked to her. We eventually reached her by email. She responded if and when she wants to talk, she'll call.
The child victim in the case is still waiting for Harris to provide a credit report. The Social Security Administration lists it as one of criteria for requesting a new number, but the victim does not have access to it because, although it's under the girl's Social Security number, it's not under the child's name. Harris was required to provide it as part of her sentencing, but the victim's mother said she did not.