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Former North Shore University Hospital Patients Recount Identity Theft 'Nightmare'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Some former patients of North Shore University Hospital are speaking out, one day after filing a lawsuit over identity theft.

A dozen people are part of the suit, claiming that since the fall of 2010, medical record face sheets with full names, addresses, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, medical histories and other information were stolen from the hospital.

The lawsuit says the stolen medical records left the former patients vulnerable to identity theft.

Former North Shore University Hospital Patients Recount Identity Theft 'Nightmare'

Katherine Cross said she has had good credit her whole life, but now she has to worry about renewing the lease on her car after she said she was the victim of identity theft.

"It has been a nightmare," Cross told WCBS 880's Sophia Hall. "I think it's an absolute disgrace. A hospital that size and they don't notify you?"

The suit has been filed against the hospital's parent company, North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, for failing to protect patient's identities and for not notifying them when hospital officials discovered the crimes, Hall reported.

"They charged $4,500 on my Bloomingdale's card. They also charged up about $4,000 on my Macy's charge card," former patient Paulette Schramm told Hall.

Schramm said the identity thieves were even able to get a Georgia driver's license in her name.

"You feel very vulnerable," she told Hall.

Attorney Bonita E. Zelman, who is representing all 12 plaintiffs in the case, said the hospital caused the victims undue stress.

"North Shore University Hospital robbed these plaintiffs, who were patients in their hospital, of the value of their sensitive financial, identity and health information at a time of their lives when many of them were struggling with major life-threatening illnesses," Zelman told Hall.

The hospital said that a widespread theft ring victimized a number of organizations and that North Shore has taken aggressive steps to strengthen the security of patient information, including removing Social Security numbers from the first page of hospital charts.

And a hospital spokesman notes that there have not been any incidents of identity theft reported to the hospital in the past 11 months.

Computer experts said hospitals in general do a good job layering security, but there's room for improvement.

"They need to do vulnerability testing almost daily to make sure that nobody can get in," Matt Brown with NST Computer Services told CBS 2's Carolyn Gusoff.

Last year, two suspects – Clincy M. Robinson and Dennis Messias – were arrested and charged separately with identity theft in connection with the hospital face sheet thefts, the lawsuit said. Robinson, who later pleaded guilty, was found in possession of 25 North Shore University Hospital face sheets, the suit said.

The lawsuit accused the hospital of negligence, misrepresentation, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, and violation of several laws, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act that guarantees privacy for individual medical information.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, as well as the creation of a fund for comprehensive credit monitoring and identity theft protection.

North Shore-LIJ has arranged for a year of credit rating monitoring for the 200 identified victims. The victims charge that's not enough.

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