The report of a Virginia nursing home worker allegedly stealing the identities of nine residents at two facilities to fraudulently obtain credit cards and merchandise raises the issue of how well nursing homes safeguard personal information. In this particular case, Karen Priscilla Jones was indicted by a federal grand jury on 32 counts– including 18 counts of aggravated identity theft. The alleged crimes took place while Jones worked at The Oaks Assisted Living and Avante Assisted Living Facility.
If convicted, Jones faces up to 386 years in prison and $8.5 million in fines.
The following are some great suggestions for reducing incidence of identity theft–old or young– compiled by the Legal Counsel For The Elderly.
- Do not give out identifying numbers or financial information on the phone unless you initiate the call and know the person or organization being called. Never underestimate the persuasive skills of these crooks; they can fool the smartest of consumers.
- Shred or tear into small pieces all mail solicitations, bank records or any other discarded documents that may provide information that can be used to identify you.
- Know the due dates for your bills and statements. If a regular bill or statement fails to reach you within a week of the usual time, contact the company to find out why. Thieves often divert mail to themselves to avoid alerting victims.
- Opt out of receiving pre-screened credit card offers. The three major credit bureaus use the same number: 1-888-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688). (Experian is the only major credit bureau that goes a step further and offersremovalfrom other lists – those used for marketing and promotional purposes.)
- Opt out of MDV lists. Notify the Alabama Department of Motor Vehicles that you do not want information about you provided tomarketing and promotional groups. The Alabama law has many loopholes, but this may help.
- Register on the Do-Not-Registry by calling 1-888-382-1222, from the number you wish to register; or register online at www.donotcall.gov. Registration is good for five years.
- Opt out of direct mail solicitations and e-mail lists.To cut down on unwanted mail, write:
Direct Marketing Association, Mail Preference Service
P.O. Box 643
Carmel, NY 10512
- Give your name (all names you are known by), addresses, previous addresses if you have been there less than five years, and state that you do not wish to receive mail solicitations.
- To remove your name from e-mail lists visithttp://www.dmaconsumers.org/offmailinglist.html.
- Do not put your Social Security Number on your driver license and do not carry your SS card in your wallet. Unfortunately, this will provide only limited benefit, since Medicare and other health insurers use the SSN as an identifier. This problem has been called to the attention of the SS Administration and others, but it seems that little is being done to address it.
- Store new and cancelled checks in a safe place, report lost/stolen checks to your bank immediately, and carefully review every statement.
- Periodically request a copy of your credit record. The report will let you know who has asked for information about you recently, which can give an early warning of trouble. To request a copy of your credit report for a very small charge (no charge if you have recently been denied credit), call:
Equifax @ 1-800-685-1111;
Trans-Union @ 1-800-916-8800 or
Experian @ 1-888-EXPERIAN (888-397-3742)
Nursing Homes Responsibility In Identity Theft Cases
If you have become the victim of identity theft in a nursing home setting, the first thing that should be done is to contact the local police. A police investigation will help determine what information was taken and by whom. If the nursing home failed to safeguard personal information or became aware information was missing- yet failed to act, the facility may be responsible for all damages resulting from identity theft losses.