Protecting Your Personal Information

There has recently been a story in Philadelphia regarding the theft of information from a person while hospitalized.  The end result was not pleasant with the theft of money from the hospitalized person’s assets.

Stop and think for a minute – you go to the hospital – whether in anticipation of being an inpatient or even perhaps to the ER and end up becoming an inpatient.  What do you take with you?  Most likely your wallet because it has all of your information – insurance cards, identification, most likely credit cards and/or debit cards.  Perhaps even your Social Security card.  Yep, you need many of those items to “register” for medical treatment. 

But, what do you do with your wallet once you are “registered”?  Do you continue to take it with you on your tour of the hospital or do you give it to someone who accompanied you to the hospital?  Most of us might think that we need to keep the information with us – just in case. 

So, now you are an inpatient and there are so many people in and out of your room.  And, you aren’t even aware of who might come in while you are sleeping or perhaps out of your room for a procedure or a test.  And now I ask you – how “safe” is your wallet? 

We find similar situations when someone is in a nursing or rehab facility.  What do they need to keep with them?  The answer is as little as possible.  Why take the chance that your information and/or assets can be compromised when if you need the information, you can call a family member to bring it to you when they come to visit. 

The protection of information is also important if you have in-home caregivers for loved ones.  Is this type of information available to a caregiver?  Is it in a common area or has all sensitive information been secured?  And, what about mail?  Some people are still getting paper statements for accounts and this would also be a potential means to obtain sensitive information.

In our world of technology today, many of us carry cell phones.  If you have a cell phone, it is very likely that it is password protected or opens only with facial recognition or fingerprint.  Would you be keeping your cell phone with you if you were hospitalized?   If so, this may not be a foolproof way to protect your information but a little better way to protect it.  If the phone has a password requirement that is the most secure way.  But, as technology has advanced, we have the convenience of facial recognition or fingerprint recognition to “unlock” our devices.  While temporarily turning off facial or fingerprint recognition when faced with a medical crisis may not be what you think of, it is something that is important. 

Think ahead.  Don’t become the victim of the theft of information or assets while hospitalized or in a care facility or even being in your own home.  Have a plan in place.  Who will have access to your information and/or assets?   You would be surprised how creative people can be when the temptation is there.  Stay one step ahead of them. 

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About the Author

Kay Sowa is a paralegal in the Trusts and Estates Group at Capehart & Scatchard, P.A. She is an IRS Enrolled Agent, an Accredited Estate Planner®, and a Certified Trust and Fiduciary Advisor. She oversees the trust and estate administration practice for the firm. She is an accomplished author and lecturer who has frequently spoken on behalf of a number of organizations including the National Business Institute and the Institute of Paralegal Education.

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