A substitute teacher is out to clear her name after background checks linked her to someone else’s crimes.

It first happened in Tomball. Now Pamela Ferrell’s problem is online, and she fears mistakes may be costing other people jobs.

Ferrell used to be a clown grinning over good gags to make children smile. However, links between her name, theft, robbery and cocaine possession in background checks cracked her heart in two.

“At first I felt very defeated,” Ferrell said. “There’s not a day that goes by since then that I haven’t cried.”

Ferrell is a teacher boasting binders packed with certifications and nine years worth of fan mail from past first grade students. Three years ago, though, a company called JD Palatine reported crimes in Ferrell’s background to Tomball ISD. The company sent Ferrell a copy of the report per federal law.

She disputed it and learned the company confused her with someone else who shared Ferrell’s maiden name and birth date.

“I thought once I sent in the information that cleared it up,” she said.

After taking time away to care for her sick mom, Ferrell applied for 65 jobs in two districts with hardly an interview. So she typed her name into Google and gasped at the results. Ferrell had nine criminal charges, including felony resisting arrest, according to WhitePages.com. Only after clearing two pay walls did the site reveal the charges actually belong to a taller, heavier woman who is black.

“I felt panic because how can they do this,” Ferrell said. “How can they do it? I felt libeled and I felt defamation, and I wanted to sue them.”

Instead, Ferrell went to the school districts hiring. None use White Pages or other online sites that buy and publish data for profit. All rely on companies regulated by the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Still Ferrell, now a substitute teacher, wonders how often mistakes happen and if it costs other people job opportunities.

“If it happens to me, it happens to other people too,” Ferrell said.

KHOU 11 News called and emailed White Pages and JD Palatine for comment. Neither responded.