Identity Theft Mess

By: Nichole Vrsansky
By: Nichole Vrsansky

This may be one of the worst cases of identity theft ever. Since 1999, Loves Park resident Jenny Kling says more than 200 illegal immigrants have been using her Social Security number.

It's incredible and unbelievable, but what's even harder to understand is that no one at the state or federal level, Social Security included, seemed to be prepared to solve this problem.

“It's absolutely horrible, horrible, five years of a nightmare."

But in a nightmare you wake up. Jenny Kling isn't that lucky.

The Loves Park Police Department has compiled a list of more than 30 illegal immigrants who have been using Kling's Social Security number to get jobs and collect unemployment. Kling believes there are more than 175 others. She found out in 2001 when applying for unemployment benefits.

"They denied me the unemployment benefits because they were paying to three other individuals at that time," says Kling.

How did it happen? The state employment office had this explanation: "In Chicago, some guy or several people sit at a computer punching numbers, and as soon as they get a hit for a legitimate Social Security number they sell it on the black market," says Kling.

Kling thought the problem could be fixed if Social Security simply red flagged her Social Security number and issued her a new one, but when she told management at the Jefferson Street office in 2001, she says they told her this wasn't identity theft.

"Social Security said it's not identity theft because they're using their names with my number. They're not using my name," says Kling.

Loves Park Deputy Police Chief Jim Puckett says this is the worst case of identity theft he's ever seen. He's made calls on Jenny's Behalf to Social Security, the state, the FTC; nothing. He's even tried to track down the people on this list:

"Businesses have either closed or the violators have moved, or they're using different names."

But here's the twist: the state of Illinois is accusing Kling of fraud. She's now responsible for paying back the unemployment benefits collected by those who are illegally using her Social Security number. Her state tax refunds have been garnished and private investigators have come knocking to take even more.

"It's very scary to have people knock at my door to take pictures of my assets to sell them to garnish whatever I've got to pay back what people have taken from me," says Kling.

"She's a true victim of identity theft and I don't know if she'll ever get out of it," adds Puckett.

Following our calls to Social Security Thursday and Friday morning, Friday afternoon Jenny was issued a new Social Security number.

However, this is just the first step; the problem isn't solved yet. Her old number still exists, so she still needs to sort things out with the state as far as paying back those unemployment benefits.


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