Seabeck woman's Social Security 'nightmare' traced back 25 years

Connie Davis found herself a victim of identity theft when she was told illegal immigrants were using her Social Security number. - Christopher Carter/staff photo
Connie Davis found herself a victim of identity theft when she was told illegal immigrants were using her Social Security number.
— image credit: Christopher Carter/staff photo

The real Connie Davis is more than just a number.

The fake Connie Davises, the two Eastern Washington farm workers who assumed her Social Security number, are more than just numbers as well, but all are caught up in an identity fraud network that dates back more than two decades and all started with a single, legal Social Security number.

And that is how Davis, 40, of Seabeck, found herself at the center of a mystery that will dog her for years, and has the potential to confound thousands more.

Her number apparently was picked, almost at random, and is being distributed among workers desperate to find employment. And without much help from the government, Davis fears she has a lengthy bureaucratic battle in front of her to keep her identity from being abused.

“No matter where these people go, they have that number still in their head, they can continue using it,” she said. “You still have to watch your whole life.”

Davis found out in January she had been pulled into the center of a virtual who’s who game with the government. It was the beginning of what she called, “an utter nightmare.”

That nightmare started when Davis called the state Department of Social and Health Services for an annual follow-up to ensure her children’s enrollment in health care. Davis, a stay-at-home mother, home-schools her three children and doesn’t bring in any income. She also makes sure to destroy any documents remotely tied to her personal information. So, when the department asked about the extra income she made at various farms across the eastern part of the state, it was news to her.

After researching activity involving Davis’ number, an employee with the department told her that two people had been hired using her number and that she needed to take care of the issue as soon as possible.

As far as Davis is concerned, that is easier said than done. The problem is wide-spread and rampant, with no clear culprit, but a clear victim.

“What all the agencies are telling me to do — and telling me what will happen — in my mind doesn’t feel like it’s going to take care of the problem,” she said. “My concern with the system is that the victim has to do all the work and the victim has no one working for them.”

Davis’ troubles began 25 years ago when a Thai national immigrated legally to the United States, according to a Social Security employee noted in a Kitsap sheriff’s office report on the matter. That person’s Social Security number was then used illegally to spawn other numbers. The new numbers, changed each time it was used or distributed by one digit, multiplied and are shared among thousands of illegal immigrants working in the United States.

Somewhere down the line, one of those numbers matched Davis’. When Davis asked about getting a new number, she was told she didn’t meet the requirements and she would likely face problems for years, receiving notices from the Internal Revenue Service regarding unpaid income taxes and will continually have to show proof she was not the individual who earned the income in order to avoid penalties.

For people like Davis who feel they’ve done everything right, the experience is more than frustrating.

After contacting the Federal Trade Commission, the Social Security Administration and the Washington state Attorney General’s office among other state and federal agencies, Davis is still looking for answers and a solution.

The farms listed in the report that hired workers using Davis’ number did not return calls seeking comment and the Social Security office in Silverdale declined to detail how the conclusions in the report were reached.

The state attorney general’s office told Davis it was unlikely that any agency would conduct an investigation.

“They told me if you’re not dying, been shot or dead, they probably won’t do anything about it,” she said. “To me, that’s appalling.”

In instances like Davis’, the role of law enforcement usually ends with the police report.

“These are difficult cases for both the victim and law enforcement,” Kristin Alexander, spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s office. “There is no law that requires a law enforcement agency to open up an investigation.”

Alexander said it is a good idea for people who suspect their identity, including their Social Security number, has been compromised to report it immediately.

The Internal Revenue Service has a Identity Protection Specialized Unit which can be reached by calling 1-800-908-4490.

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