There’s a killer shadowing Jim Williams.
It’s not what you think. Williams doesn’t fear losing his life, just losing his credit rating.
Or maybe his sanity.
“I think about this every day,” says the Spokane auto mechanic. “It’s always on my mind. Sometimes I have to smack myself in the head to calm down.”
Williams and his wife, Stacey, led regular lives until they became worthy of a “Twilight Zone” episode or the “Ricki Lake Show.”
The weirdfest began last year when the 38-year-old discovered he shared the same Social Security number with an Illinois man: A convicted murderer also named Jim Williams.
Same age. Same middle initial.
It took months and many telephone calls to straighten out, but our Williams finally was issued a different number.
He thought things were back to normal until the Infernal Revenue Service dropped Williams a note wondering why he hadn’t paid his taxes.
But Williams had paid. He even got a refund.
Williams says he called the IRS and tried to explain how he was probably being confused with this other Jim Williams who did a stretch in the pen for murder and …
The agent “told me things like that don’t happen,” says Williams. “I told her, ‘Man, do you think anybody would conjure up such a story?”’
Once again, the knot of red tape was untangled. And once again, Williams dared to think his journey through Bizarro World had ended.
Fate sideswiped him just a few days ago when Williams applied for a loan to pay off some of Stacey’s medical bills.
It should have been a done deal. The Williamses wanted $10,000 against $40,000 equity in their home.
A week dragged by and then a discouraging word came.
Loan denied. Bad credit.
“It’s hard to have a sense of humor over this,” says Williams.
Next stop: Spokane’s Credit Bureau Services, where Williams retold the strange Tale of Two Williamses and asked for an investigation.
Sure enough, the Illinois Williams had struck again. Two delinquent accounts had somehow been assigned to our man. Each one was significant enough to stop a loan.
“This is the first time I’ve heard of this happening,” says a credit bureau worker. “Unfortunately, it’s something that could bother him for a long time.”
Faceless drones inside the vast Social Security bureaucracy have been tight-lipped as to how this freak mix-up happened.
According to Williams, the mess began when a Social Security agent called him in January 1995. She told him another James D. Williams came into the Peoria, Ill., offices and asked for a new card.
The card was issued, but government workers later noticed that retirement benefits assigned to the number actually belonged to a James D. Williams of Spokane.
Williams was told not to worry. He would get a new number. Everything would be dandy.
But something kept nagging at the man. Why didn’t Illinois Williams have any Social Security benefits of his own?
Eventually, an agent told Williams his alter ego was an ex-jailbird. A check with the Illinois penal system confirmed the worst.
A James D. Williams was paroled in 1994 after a 17-year stretch for murder.
Spokane Williams called me the other day to say his loan got approved. Everything is back to normal.
For the moment. Trouble is, the poor guy can’t stop fretting. The way things are going, he’s sure the police will someday bang down his door to bust the wrong James D. Williams.
To avoid this, the man offers the following plan:
“I’ve decided to grow a beard and change my name to Harry Horwinkle.”
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