Contact 6: Social security number theft leads to ID theft

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Identity theft can happen anywhere, and FOX6's Contact 6 says it is important to safeguard your social security number.

"A woman behind the desk asked me for my social security number. My generation gives that freely -- especially in a safe place like a hospital," Beverly Tiernan said.

Tiernan was in a hospital emergency room being treated for injuries resulting from a car accident.

"Little did I know that in a few months I would find out that she was giving my social security number, along with many other people`s, to a bad ring of ID theft," Tiernan said.

U.S. Postal Inspectors say the number of actual victims was 332.

Tiernan realized she was a victim when her husband tried to access her bank account.

"They told him my account had been compromised," Tiernan said.

The identity thieves began withdrawing money using her identity, through 11 separate accounts they had created.

"Overall loss was about $631,000," U.S. Postal Inspector Ivan Ramirez said.

From the hundreds of victims, including elderly Tiernan was lucky because she got her money back.

"There are a lot of people who work very hard for their money and do it in an honest way. It`s very hard when it`s taken from you in that way," Tiernan said.

Postal Inspectors say the hospital employee was selling patients' information in the ID theft ring and was one of five people arrested in the scheme.

FOX6's Contact 6 advises people do not have to provide a social security number. Rather, ask what happens if you refuse, and then determine whether to provide that number.