BRUNSWICK, Ga. – A Brunswick woman told the I-TEAM that she and her husband became victims of identity theft, and believed an employee with Georgia’s child services system was to blame.
News4Jax has learned the employee in question has been fired, and could face criminal charges.
Last year, on Mother’s Day, Erika Giddens went to the mailbox, expecting to see cards from her kids. Instead, she was greeted with not one, but three credit denial letters for loans that she never applied for.
“I never thought in a million years, it would happen to me,” Giddens said.
The suspected identity thief was an employee with Georgia’s Department of Family and Children Services, James McQueen. According to a report from the department’s Office of Inspector General, McQueen put his agency-issued cell phone number on credit applications, and “accessed personal information regarding agency clients… and then later used that information in an attempt to commit identity theft and financial fraud…”
“Why do you think he chose you?” asked I-TEAM investigator Tarik Minor.
“I have no idea. We’re nothing special,” Giddens said. “We’re not millionaires.”
Giddens said she called the DFCS headquarters with an emergency a month earlier, when she and her husband were having a problem with a child they were fostering. Weeks later, they received a phone call from an Atlanta phone number that set off red flags.
“He told my husband he was a police officer from the city of Brunswick, that he was a detective, and he was trying to press charges against a former foster child that was in our home,” said Giddens.
As if that hadn’t been strange enough, Giddens said the caller’s other questions got very personal, very quickly.
“What street did you live on, and he read off four different answers, and it’s the same questions when you do, like, a credit check and you have to pick the right one,” she said.
Giddens and her husband did a reverse phone number search on the caller, and it was a number tied to McQueen – his personal cell phone. Days later, the credit denial letters were rolling in.
DFCS acted swiftly in its review, suspending and then firing McQueen. The investigative report stated the evidence against him was “overwhelming.” According to the report, McQueen used his agency-issued cellphone to call 13 financial institutions, and then used his personal cell to call Giddens.
A search of McQueen’s state-issued laptop showed he’d visited the websites of credit companies. State investigators questioned McQueen, and the report stated: “His only explanation is that his own identity was stolen, that some unknown person or persons are ‘out to get me; and someone hacked his personal and work devices (personal phone, agency-issued cell phone and agency-issued laptop) even though admittedly none of those items were ever out of his direct custody or control.”
As for Giddens, she said she and her husband spent $3,000 to receive their certifications to foster children in Glynn County. In return, their identities and their trust were stolen.
“I don’t sleep well at night,” Giddens said. “Every little noise, I’m peeking out my window, wondering if this guy is going to come to my house because he knows where I live. I go to a doctor’s office, they want my Social Security number, and I’m afraid to even put it on.”
Giddens wondered why McQueen had access to her personal data in the first place.
“There should have been no reason he pulled up my information,” she said. “He’s an intake worker, that’s a whole different department.”
Giddens told the I-TEAM that she wanted the state to pay for an identity theft protection service for her and her husband. She said the agency offered to reimburse her, if she paid for it initially. However, Giddens said she didn’t believe them, and never signed up for the service.
The Glynn County District Attorney’s Office told the I-TEAM that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is still reviewing the case for possible criminal charges against McQueen. We called a phone number we had for McQueen multiple times, but could not reach him.
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