What Happens When Two Women Share a Social Security Number? Financial Chaos Ensues

Recently, NBC News covered an incredible story of mistaken identity. Or, perhaps, to put it more accurately, it’s a story of “mixed identity.” Two women share the same name (Jieun Kim), age, and same date of birth. Both were born in South Korea and later emigrated to the U.S.—one woman moving to Los Angeles, the other to the Chicago area. Both women applied for a Social Security card in the summer of 2018. And the Social Security Administration (SSA) gave both cards with the same Social Security number.

Both applied for COVID-pandemic loans, but only one received them. The other was confused to hear that she’d already gotten a grant. Both chose Chase for their banking and credit cards—and kept being told they already had accounts. They inadvertently took turns shutting down each other’s accounts. They both went to the police and reported identity theft.

This continued until, as a fluke, they ended up directly connecting by phone, and they realized their problems weren’t due to identity theft but to Social Security’s error.

Since then, the women have petitioned Social Security to fix the error, but progress has been slow. Social Security is reluctant to believe that the two women aren’t the same person.

While the sheer number of similarities between the two women is remarkable, the twist is that the SSA made a mistake. The agency rarely does make these errors. But the national credit bureaus are frequently making the same kind of mistakes. In fact, “mixed files,” when someone else’s credit information ends up on your report, are some of the most common consumer complaints to the reporting bureaus.

Mixed files can be the result of identity theft, but they are often clerical errors. In many cases, family members have mixed files because they share things used to identify someone (e.g., name, home address, banking, or other accounts). That’s understandable, but it also means it can be challenging to separate the impacted family members’ records.

What’s significant here is that the women addressed their banking issues one at a time until they finally solved the mystery by directly contacting each other. While that worked out in this case, since they could have been the victims of professional identity thieves, directly contacting them could have been dangerous.

Instead of the piecemeal approach they took, the better course for others to take would be to get a credit report, review it for any errors, and place fraud alerts on impacted accounts. If there are any strange and unexplained issues with your credit, contact an attorney specializing in credit matters. Attorneys can safely contact law enforcement, investigate the issue, and help you repair your record. Further, they’ll be able to help you receive compensation for the damage you’ve suffered due to the bureaus’ mistakes.