Back in 2005, a woman in Colorado went to buy a car at her local Subaru dealership. Little did she know she’d spend the next five years trying to convince people she was not a Colombian terrorist.
The 60-something accountant said she knew her credit was fine; she’d checked her own report before deciding to purchase the car. But when the dealership ran a credit check, up popped an alert saying she was on a list of suspected terrorists.
Apparently, the list had confused the Colorado woman with a similarly named drug trafficker in Colombia. Unfortunately, she had trouble convincing credit bureau Transunion or the federal government that she was not supporting terrorism by running drugs.
“I thought I would be driving my new car back to work after lunch,” she tells the Columbus Dispatch. “I couldn’t imagine what would happen next.”
The Dispatch has a full timeline of her day as a terrorist. Here are some highlights…
1 p.m. — She arrives at the dealership.
2 p.m. — The finance manager begins asking her some questions that seem unrelated to the process of buying a car — “Were you born in the United States? Have you always lived in the U.S.? When is the last time you left the country?” — and then tells her she’s on the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control list, which tracks specific individuals or regimes suspected of being terrorists.
2:10 p.m. — The finance manager tells her he’s calling the FBI but does not do so immediately.
4 p.m. — The dealership finally gives her the keys to her old car but asks her to wait. She fears leaving the dealership would only make her look guilty.
5:30 p.m. — Hungry and tired, she leaves the dealership. She has no idea if the FBI was ever called.
6:45 p.m. — She calls the dealership and is told that a mistake appears to have been made.
7:15 p.m. — She heads back to the dealership, where everyone is suddenly very nice to her. They offer her $100 in free gas. She says the only thing she wants is a copy of the credit report they received from Transunion.
In the end, she got her car, which she still drives today, but it wasn’t until several years — and a lengthy legal battle — that she ever got her name cleared. A jury initially awarded her $750,000, but the court ultimately reduced that to $150,000.
Car buyer mistaken as terrorist [AJC.com]