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The Identity Theft You Haven't Heard of...Yet

WebMD Feature from "Good Housekeeping" Magazine

By Amy Engeler

Good Housekeeping Magazine Logo

They're not just going on shopping sprees anymore. Now thieves are using your personal info (or your child's) to get a job, buy a house, and have major surgery — which wrecks not just your bank account but also your medical records.

When her labor pains began last April, Dorothy Bell Moran, a troubled 28-year-old, showed up alone at Alta View Hospital in the Salt Lake City area. As identification, she handed over a driver's license. It wasn't hers, but Moran looked enough like the woman in the photo — young, with long dark hair and a toothy smile — that no one questioned her.

Moran was only 33 weeks pregnant, so she was taken to nearby University Hospital, which is better equipped to handle preemies. When she refused to pronounce her name at the intake desk, the sympathetic clerk assumed it was because she was in so much pain. Moran gave birth to a daughter without any friends or family around. Several days later, when the hospital ran tests, the baby girl came up positive for methamphetamine. But doctors couldn't talk to Moran — at some point, she had walked out of the hospital, leaving her newborn behind.

Soon after the baby's tests came back, Anndorie Sachs, 28, a biomedical engineering student who lives in Salt Lake City with her husband and kids, received a call from the Utah Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS). Your newborn, the investigator said, tested positive for drugs. "What do you mean?" Sachs recalls saying. "I didn't just have a baby." The agent's response: "Don't try to pull that with me!" She notified Sachs that DCFS was ready to put through paperwork to take custody of Sachs's four children, then ages 2 to 7.

Sachs connected the dots right away: Two months earlier, someone had stolen her driver's license from her car. Remembering that, she called her husband, a contractor, who sped home from work.

As the couple was sitting in their living room anxiously awaiting the agent, their 7-year-old daughter, Sierra, was being pulled from her first-grade classroom. The DCFS agent asked the girl if her mother had been in the hospital recently. Sierra answered yes, and proudly showed off the spot on her arm where a nurse had inserted an IV. (She'd had an infection several days earlier.) Then the investigator asked Sierra if her mom had a new baby. The little girl said no. And, no, her mother had not been away for the past few days.

When the DCFS agent finally arrived at the house, she could see that Sachs hadn't given birth recently. But she still needed proof that this wasn't the woman who had abandoned an infant in a hospital and racked up a $10,000 bill. "It took five full minutes," Sachs recalls, "before she started to believe what I was saying."

The accusations were dropped and Sachs was cleared of paying Moran's hospital bills, but the ordeal wasn't over. Sachs's medical records had been altered to include the blood type and general health record of a complete stranger. The two hospitals assured Sachs that they'd fixed the problem, but she can't be 100 percent sure because — in a catch-22 of utter insanity — they wouldn't let her see her own records, lest Moran's privacy rights be violated. "It's especially scary," she says, "because I have a blood-clotting disorder. If a doctor gave me the wrong blood type, it could be fatal."

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