According to federal investigators, two Connecticut women are facing charges of identity theft after stealing personal information from hospital patients.
One of the suspects, Jamila Williams-Stevenson, was working at Yale-New Haven Hospital as a companion or sitter. Authorities believe that she used her position at the hospital to steal personal information for the purpose of identity fraud.
Donna Walker, one of the women’s alleged victims, had suffered from a brain injury and was not expected to live.
“It was people that was expected to die,” said Walker about the 20 targeted victims. “I really believe that.”
Once Williams-Stevenson and her partner, Loretta Coburn, got their hands on the information they needed, they changed their victims’ addresses, took their mail, and then gained access to their finances.
“They had my social security number,” said Walker. “I got a notice from the post office that said that my address had been changed. I find out that they have been applying for credit cards.”
Willy Amply, another alleged victim, said that his daughter was also a patient at Yale New Haven Hospital. He told authorities that someone claiming to be from the hospital called him saying that they needed information. He gave them his and his daughter’s information.
“They had made an insurance policy out on my daughter while she was in the hospital,” he said.
Williams-Stevenson is no longer employed at Yale-New Haven Hospital, and she is facing charges of Bank Fraud and Aggravated Identity Theft. Coburn has been charged with Conspiracy to Commit Bank Fraud.
More than 17 million Americans fall victim to identity theft each year. Here are three of the most important ways to protect yourself:
- Watch out for phishing scams. Phishing scams, like the one Williams-Stevenson and Coburn used to gain personal information from Willy Amply, come from a third party claiming to be a trustworthy entity like your bank, the police, or the hospital. They ask you for your social security number, account numbers, or passwords by email or over the phone. Remember, trustworthy companies or organizations won’t request personal information via email. If you receive this request in a phone call, make sure to verify that the person you’re talking to is truly who they say they are.
- Keep sensitive documents secure. If you keep personal and financial information on your computer, make sure you install a firewall and secure your wireless network. If you keep hard copies of this information, make sure you shred them and dispose of them in a secure location or use a document shredding service to ensure that your paperwork is properly destroyed. Credit card statements should be shredded after 45 days. Medical records and bills should be kept for at least one year.
- Check your credit report. Check your credit at least once a year in order to catch any errors. More and more children are becoming victims of identity theft because fraudulent activity can go unnoticed for years until the victim turns 18 or opens up a bank account. This means that you should check your children’s credit as well.
If you believe that your identity has been stolen or any of your personal information has been compromised, it is critical that you put a hold on all bank and credit accounts, change your passwords, and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.