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Chicago woman's Kia will be under repair until spring after being stolen, found -- and she's stuck with all the bills

Kia theft leaves Chicago woman with huge bills
Kia theft leaves Chicago woman with huge bills 02:33

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The CBS 2 Investigators have been tracking the spiking theft of Kias and Hyundais for months.

Now, another Kia theft victim is coming forward. She is a single mom whose car was stolen two months ago, was found destroyed the next day, and is still in the shop waiting on backordered parts.

As CBS 2's Tara Molina reported, Tina Swopes of the Auburn Gresham neighborhood took pictures of her 2021 Kia Forte when Chicago Police found it ditched and left running at a gas station in October. The car was damaged missing 25 parts, but not wrecked.

"It's not totaled," Swopes said. "I wish it was."

She wishes it were totaled because it is going to be a while until she has it back.

"He told me due to having a new version vehicle, I'm not likely to get my car until next year springtime," Swopes said.

Kias are being targeted by thieves right now because there's no engine immobilizer in certain models. That is why Swopes' car showed a certain pattern of damage when police found it.

"They are severely damaging the steering column of the vehicle," said Mark Friedlander of the Insurance Information Institute. "That is a significant repair, and unfortunately, we are seeing this multiplied by thousands across the country." 

Kia theft leaves long-lasting impact for Chicago woman 02:40

And Swopes is one of thousands. There were only 328 Kias stolen in 2021 in Chicago. This year, just through Nov. 25, there were 3,573, compared with 290 in the same period last year.

"My insurance only covers 30 days on vehicle," Swopes said.

And Swopes never thought the October theft would leave her in the position she's facing now. Past her insurance coverage, she's stuck paying big bucks for a rental car.

"And that extra $1,500 a month – it's a burden on me," she said, "because I don't have the extra."

And this is all happening a week from Christmas.

"I am unable at the moment to buy my children anything for Christmas," Swopes said. "I usually decorate and do something big for them. I have yet to be able to do that."

Swopes is still expected to pay her $400 car note every month. She says she's asked Kia to pause her loan until repairs are complete, since it could be months.

But she says Kia won't budge.

"Every time I reach out to Kia for help, they just read me a disclosure with an apology and that's it," Swopes said. 

So this year, her family is they're going without.

"I had a lady give me a Christmas tree," Swopes said, "but still, I can't put nothing under it for my kids."

Swopes has filed a complaint with the Illinois Attorney General, and is encouraging others to do the same so the AG's office can go after Kia.

"I want Kia to take full responsibility for what's going on," Swopes said.    

Car thieves, dubbed "Kia boys" by some, are able to break into cars and start them with nothing more than a screwdriver and USB charger. 

The city's South and West sides have been hit especially hard since this summer and this has driven up car thefts in Chicago to its highest level in over a decade, CBS 2 Investigator Brad Edwards reported this week.

While government lawyers weigh the prospects of suits against the Korean automakers, some lawyers are moving forward with class action suits.

Molina asked Kia about Sopes' requests, when we reached them about this story and the continued theft issue, a spokesperson said, "Regarding the consumer situation you noted below, I have forwarded to Kia Consumer Affairs for their review."

Kia also issued this general statement about vehicle thefts:

"Kia remains concerned about the recent trend among youth in some areas, encouraged by social media, to target certain Kia cars with a steel key and 'turn-to-start' ignition systems. In many cases, the vehicles are stolen solely for the purpose of operating in a reckless manner. Such criminal conduct endangers our local communities and violates property rights.

"While no car can be made completely theft-proof, Kia continues to make steering wheel locks available to customers through interested local law enforcement agencies, subject to available supply, at no cost to concerned owners of these vehicles.

"Kia also continues its efforts to develop additional solutions for vehicles not originally equipped with an immobilizer, including the development and testing of enhanced security software.

"All 2022 models and trims have an immobilizer applied either at the beginning of the year or as a running change, and all Kia vehicles meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

"Kia customers with questions regarding their Kia vehicle should contact the Kia Consumer Assistance Center directly at 1-800-333-4542 (Kia)."

Allstate also issued this statement regarding insurance claims: "Rising Kia thefts nationwide are impacting repair times and we're working closely with affected customers to ensure their claims are resolved and they're back on the road as quickly as possible."

The Insurance Information Institute issued these safety tips about preventing theft in the wake of the Hyundai and Kia theft epidemic.

  • Always roll up your windows, lock your doors and remove your keys from the ignition.
  • Park in a well-lighted area or a garage.
  • Use visible or audible devices, like alarms and steering column brake locks.
  • Install a vehicle immobilizer, like a kill switch or smart key.
  • Invest in a tracking system.
  • Install motion-sensor lights near your driveway.
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