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The Resource Center Identity Theft & Protection | article

Hospitals Have the Potential to Be Havens for Identity Theft

There are roughly 3 million nurses working across the country, with more than 60 percent of them finding employment in the busy and often frantic halls of hospitals. Because of the high volume of people on site at these institutions — not just patients, but visitors and other staff on a daily basis as well — spending time in one can be a disorienting experience. As a result, it can be easy to lose track of not only your surroundings but also your belongings, from physical items such as a backpack or purse to less tangible items, such as your license or Social Security number.

Crowded places — such as a busy hospital — tend to present an increased risk
Anywhere that large numbers of strangers are mingling together, the risk of identity theft only escalates, because you cannot verify who in a certain crowd is or isn't a criminal. Identity thieves don't wear signs or carry identification declaring their criminal status, and they will likely try to take advantage of their victims when they are most vulnerable. While you may be visiting a loved one in the hospital, you're likely not suspecting that a guest on the other side of the curtain who is also there to visit a patient could be scoping out an opportunity to steal your identity.

Even a friendly visit could result in theft if precautions are made
Before you visit someone at the hospital, make sure you keep your belongings on you at all time. Avoid handling bags or purses, as you could very easily forget about them in an emotional situation like a hospital visit and leave them in a public location by accident. If you had your license or debit card in these containers, an opportunistic thief could run up a bill in your name — potentially ultimately damaging your credit score — or even open up a new account on your behalf.

Avoid the risk altogether by leaving important documents at home
Leave the checks and bank cards at home and only bring your credit card with you to the hospital if you intend to make any purchases. Generally, combating identity theft on a credit card is easier because these institutions give you a longer window of time — usually 90 days — to file a fraud report than a bank, which usually limit customers to one month.

If you will be visiting a hospital this week, make sure to thank the nurses on duty for all of their hard work and tell them about the benefits of credit monitoring — after all, May 12 is Nurse's Day, and they may be too busy helping others to be keeping adequate track of their credit.

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