Woman can't get credit after her identity is stolen

Posted: Updated:

PHOENIX -- Identity theft is a major problem here in Arizona, but it appears one man has taken it to a whole new level.

This report is going to leave a lot of folks asking how such a thing could happen.

Experts will tell you one of the biggest problems in Arizona is probably identity theft. The other one, of course, is immigration.

When you mix those two problems together, it can be devastating.

And no one knows that better than a West Valley woman by the name of Amber Cardenas.

She's one person, but Cardenas has two identities, and that has caused a huge problem for her.

"My identity was stolen approximately six years ago," she said. "I'm stuck. I can't apply for anything. Everywhere I've gone to get a credit, he's there, he's been there, and I get denied."

But, Cardenas never knew someone stole her personal information until she needed state-assisted insurance.

"I was pregnant with my daughter, I applied for AHCCCS, and they denied me stating I worked at some kind of Chinese restaurant," Cardenas said.

But Cardenas never worked at a restaurant so she decided to contact that restaurant to see what was going on.

"They told me that the person was working there and that they were going to go ahead and fire the person," she said.

As it turns out, the mystery man working at the restaurant is a guy by the name of Ruben Santiago.

Although he always used his real name, he reportedly used Cardenas' Social Security number so he could get a job and basically create an identity for himself.

Why would he do that? Well, because Santiago is in the United States illegally.

But what has helped Santiago's life has destroyed Cardenas' life.

"He has created two separate credit files, which is Ruben Santiago and my Social Security number and then my name and Social Security number, so there's two separate credit files," Cardenas said.

And Cardenas says with the new identity Santiago created, he's taken over her life.

For example, every time she tries try to open credit somewhere, good ol' Ruben Santiago beat her to the punch.

"I've gone to The RoomStore and applied for credit and they're unable to give me the credit because Ruben Santiago has used my Social Security number," Cardenas said.

And she kept hearing things like this. It was like this mystery man named Ruben Santiago was always one step ahead of her. Whether it was getting utilities turned on or applying for a credit card, Santiago had done it already using Cardenas' Social Security number.

"They told me they weren't able to do so because Ruben Santiago had already put on SRP services somewhere else," Cardenas said.

She said the "ghost" of Ruben Santiago follows her everywhere and has made her identity impossible to prove.

"Now, it's getting to the point where I'm nobody and he's somebody," she said.

Then, to top it all off, Cardenas found out even more.

"He has four houses in his name, he has $800,000 worth of credit in his name and my Social Security number," she said.

Eight hundred thousand dollars worth of credit all under Cardenas' Social Security number!

"I'm worried because if the credit bureaus ever come across the time where they link the Social Security numbers together, then I'm probably liable for all the debt," Cardenas said.

At her wits' end with this mystery thief, Cardenas decided to contact the Maricopa County Sherriff's Office and 3 On Your Side.

"I don't even know where to start to get it cleared up," she said.

So, who is this Ruben Santiago and, more importantly, could he be stopped from destroying Cardenas' credit and her life further?

"The sheriff's office told me that when someone steals your Social Security number, it's very hard for the investigation and for them to find leads to arrest the person," Cardenas said.

This guy even had a bank account using Cardenas' information.

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office says Santiago was able to do all of this by buying Cardenas' Social Security number off the streets for $80.

On Thursday, I'll let you know if he has been caught and what, if anything, will be done.