Two women, one Social Security number, and a mighty big mess

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They’ve the identical identify. They had been born on the identical day in South Korea. They usually had been each assigned the identical Social Safety quantity after they emigrated to the US.

This bureaucratic bungle has bedeviled Jieun Kim, of Los Angeles, and Jieun Kim, who lives simply exterior Chicago in Evanston, Illinois, for nearly so long as they’ve been on this nation.

Over the previous 5 years, the 31-year-old girls have had their banking and financial savings accounts shut down. They’ve had their bank cards blocked. They’ve been suspected of partaking in identification theft.

And, they are saying, the Social Safety Administration has been both unable, or unwilling, to rectify its mistake.

The consequence has been a stage of frustration that LA Kim has likened to “throwing (an) egg onto the massive rock.”

“I’m left with concern about what’s in retailer for me as I’ve to cope with this horrible aftermath of the Social Safety Administration’s mistake in giving one Social Safety quantity to 2 individuals,” she mentioned.

Chicagoland Kim mentioned the SSA gained’t come clean with its mistake.

“This sort of mix-up can occur with Asian individuals as a result of they’ve very related names,” she says she was advised by its employees.

However after she just lately crammed out an utility to get a brand new Social Safety quantity, the SSA despatched her the identical quantity she had earlier than and blamed the snafu on laptop error.

“It’s because the pc acknowledges you guys as one particular person,” Chicagoland Kim says she was advised by company employees.

Extra ominously, LA Kim mentioned, she was warned by a number of the SSA employees she handled to not make a fuss concerning the mistake as a result of it may delay her getting a inexperienced card.

“The officer advised me that speaking about this Social Safety quantity mix-up may lead to delaying the inexperienced card course of that could possibly be achieved in six months to 2-3 years,” she mentioned.

NBC Information reached out to the SSA by electronic mail and phone Wednesday in search of an evidence for a way the 2 girls ended up with the identical Social Safety quantity, and for touch upon the insensitive and threatening remarks the 2 girls say company employees made. The company has not responded.

James A. Lewis, a senior vp on the Middle for Strategic and Worldwide Research, a bipartisan assume tank that makes a speciality of fixing safety points, mentioned this sort of error is uncommon.

“To get a card, you might be speculated to current both an authentic doc or an authorized copy,” Lewis, who has made recommendations for updating the Social Safety quantity system, mentioned in an electronic mail. “Seems like a glitch, perhaps human error. The error fee is fairly low — they’ve issued 450 million playing cards.”

When there’s a mistake, he mentioned, “it’s normally the opposite approach round with one particular person getting two numbers.”

Nonetheless, the chance of error could possibly be elevated by the truth that Kim is the one of the most common Korean surnames.

LA Kim, who was born in Seoul, mentioned she left South Korea in 2012 for Los Angeles to attend an English language college and to review liberal arts at a group faculty. She mentioned she had a piece allow and a job as a graphic designer.

 Jieun Kim sitting outside.
Jieun Kim, of Los Angeles. Jieun Kim

She married a fellow South Korean immigrant who already has a inexperienced card, and she or he utilized for her personal inexperienced card this yr. Within the 10 years since she emigrated, she has not returned to Seoul out of concern that she wouldn’t be allowed to return to the U.S.

“It was so true, particularly underneath the Trump administration,” she mentioned of the concern.

Chicagoland Kim was born simply south of Seoul in a small metropolis known as Anyang. She arrived within the Chicago suburb in 2017 to review at Northwestern College. A doctoral scholar, she mentioned a full scholarship coated her first yr of research.

Her issues, and people of LA Kim, started in 2018 after they had been each issued Social Safety playing cards bearing the identical quantity.

LA Kim obtained hers June 18, 2018. Chicagoland Kim obtained her card just a little over a month in a while July 23.

Someday after that, Chicagoland Kim mentioned, she went to her native Chase Financial institution department to open an account, solely to seek out out another person already used her Social Safety quantity to open an account.

“I instantly reported that anyone stole my Social Safety quantity to the IRS, the Social Safety Administration and the police,” she mentioned. “However I used to be so busy with my research that I used to be not capable of comply with by means of and I simply left it there.”

Then in 2021, Chicagoland Kim mentioned, she realized that Robinhood “closed down my inventory buying and selling account with out even consulting me.”

Then final yr, she began getting notices from the IRS. “I used to be having bother getting the Covid-19-related authorities cost,” she mentioned.

Jieun Kim, standing beside the Chicago River, which looks like it has been dyed green for St. Patrick's Day, with the Marina Towers behind her
Jieun Kim who lives in Evanston, Illinois. Jieun Kim

The IRS knowledgeable her that she had already utilized for the cash.

“It actually was mind-blowing,” she mentioned. “I couldn’t perceive what was occurring however I did perceive one thing horrible was occurring to me and that it’s getting me in huge bother.”

The final straw got here in January, Chicagoland Kim mentioned, when her bank cards had been canceled.

“So I known as my bank card firms and demanded to know why,” she mentioned “The one reply I obtained from them was that they can’t inform me as a result of it’s a safety subject and identification safety subject.”

Chicagoland Kim mentioned she gathered up all her documentation and returned to Chase Financial institution the place she filed a proper report.

“By this time, I actually wished to speak to whoever was utilizing my Social Safety quantity,” she mentioned. “To make an extended story brief, I realized that I may depart a quantity on the financial institution for the opposite particular person to get in contact with me. The individuals on the financial institution and my buddies tried to cease me, saying this might make issues worse.”

In the meantime in Los Angeles, the opposite Kim mentioned she too was having banking and bank card issues. However not being accustomed to how the system works within the U.S., she didn’t instantly report it to the SSA or the police and let her financial institution kind them out.

“Oh, there have been some unusual issues occurring once I was attempting to make use of my card or do my banking,” she mentioned. “It wasn’t till like the tip of January that I turned sure that there was a major problem utilizing my Social Safety quantity.”

That’s when she lastly went to the police and the SSA, however obtained little assist.

Lastly, LA Kim mentioned, when she realized that her bank card had been canceled, she went to Chase financial institution to seek out out why.

“Then, nearly by a miracle, an enormous breakthrough occurred,” she mentioned.

LA Kim mentioned she realized that her namesake in Evanston had, on Feb. 4, left a quantity with the financial institution with directions for whoever was utilizing her Social Safety quantity “to contact her.”

“I used to be very upset,” LA Kim mentioned. “Clearly, she was additionally very upset. So, our first textual content message didn’t go nicely.”

It wasn’t lengthy, although, earlier than they each realized what occurred.

“We discovered that we weren’t bizarre individuals or thieves and that we occurred to share one Social Safety quantity,” LA Kim mentioned.

Two days later, the Kims mentioned they visited their SSA places of work.

“Though the SSA officers didn’t readily consider me, they finally admitted that the identical Social Safety quantity was given to me” and the opposite Kim, LA Kim mentioned.

Now, each Kims mentioned, they hope the SSA may give considered one of them a brand new quantity and clear up their data.

Proper now, they mentioned, their private info and earnings histories are merged.

Additionally, LA Kim mentioned, SSA data checklist her as having 4 mother and father — hers and Chicagoland Kim’s. And the company has, to date, refused to offer her a letter confirming there was a snafu so she will get her inexperienced card utility shifting, she mentioned.

“It truly is disappointing and baffling that they won’t take duty for his or her mistake,” she mentioned.

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