Winston-Salem, NC — You trust hospitals to keep your personal information safe. But, police now say a Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center employee, Linda Turner, stole hundreds, possibly thousands, of people’s medical records.
They say she kept the files in the basement of a home she owned and other storage units.
Prosecutors charged Turner with felony larceny and she was fired from the hospital. She’ll be in court later this month. No one knows why she took home those medical files, including Nathaniel Cravanzola, the person who discovered them in the basement of his home.
When Cravanzola moved into the house, he never expected to find boxes of stolen medical records in the basement. They are dated from 1995 to 2006.
Investigators said Turner owns the home, but Cravanzola said Turner owned the home until it went into foreclosure and was turned over to the bank. He is now trying to buy the home.
“I saw something about a six-month-old with cancer. It was wrong for me to read it. I have an eight-year-old daughter. I was like, ‘Wow. If that was my daughter, I would be pissed off.'”
Cravanzola says he called Turner and asked her to take the boxes away weeks ago. She never came. So, he peaked inside and realized he had hundreds, if not thousands of personal Wake Forest Baptist Health records.
“It’s not right. I had to make a report,” Cravanzola said, “When I called Baptist, they said, ‘Don’t say nothing. Do not talk to the law. Do not call the police. Don’t do nothing.”
But, Cravanzola knew he had to tell someone. Hospital representatives and officers with the Winston-Salem Police Department came and hauled the records away. He’ll never forget one file folder.
“I had 850 names, last names, social security and why they went to the hospital,” Cravanzola said.
Since he spoke out, he says Turner’s friends have called and threatened him.
“All night my phone rang and it was like, ‘Nate, you better watch your back,'” Cravanzola said.
Now, he’s afraid to live in his own house.
“It’s not right for me to live this way,” he said.
So, what can you do to protect yourself and your information?
We talked to an identity theft expert who told us the best defense is to pay close attention to your credit.
You can also get a free copy of your credit report from the website annualcreditreport.com.
Also, don’t give out your social security number and other information any more than is absolutely necessary.
“Ask what they’re going to do with it. If you’ve already been at the hospital once, you shouldn’t have to continue giving your social security number, putting it on pieces of paper. That information is already in the system,” said Shenell Thompson with Consumer Credit Counseling Service.
“I don’t think we realize the damage that can be done if our information gets into the wrong hands,” she said.
Baptist’s Privacy Officer J.T. Moser said Turner admitted to taking one or two documents over time, but blamed it on poor work habits. She hasn’t given any reason for using them or having any malicious intent, according to Moser.
They don’t have an accurate timeline of when the records were taken, according to Moser. He said there doesn’t seem to be a common link or pattern between the records.
The hospital has a team of people looking through all the paperwork to see what information is out there. If they feel someone’s identity is at risk, they will contact them. He said Turner was not authorized to bring records home and this was something that happened gradually over a long period of time.