How Medical Identity Theft Can Affect You And Your Credit

It has been widely reported that identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America. What is not quite as well known is that one of the subcategories of identity theft is currently enjoying a rapid growth of its own. The category we’re talking about is medical identity theft.

Medical identity theft can start in a few different ways:

• Medical records can be stolen by hackers who are able to access poorly protected databases.
• Old medical bills or files that haven’t been protected or disposed of properly can fall into the wrong hands.
• Dishonest medical office personnel can copy patient information quickly and without detection on flash drives or other data storage devices.

If your medical information is compromised, the identity thief has a few different ways to use it for his own benefit. One tactic is the simple use of your name and insurance information for the purposes of obtaining “free” medical services. In this case, an identity thief uses your personal information to get medical treatment at a hospital or medical office and leaves you and your insurance company holding the bill for the services that he or she received. Pretty bad, isn't it? Well, as bad as that may sound, it gets even worse. Since this individual used your name and medical identification to receive treatment, your personal medical files and information database may now be contaminated with his or her medical information. At some point in the future, if you were to receive treatment for one of these nonexistent ailments, the results could be harmful or even fatal in some cases. An example of this would be if your medical file were altered because another person was using your name to attain medical treatment, the information pertaining to your blood type, allergies, or previous procedural information could be affected. Medical identity theft is not something to be taken lightly.

Another popular scam pertaining to medical identity theft is the filing of false claims in order to receive reimbursement from your insurance carrier. This particular type of identity thief will usually have knowledge of medical billing practices, and may even be a medical office employee or health provider. Excess billing can lead to a run up toward maximum coverage limits on your policy and increased premiums going forward.

Finally, any personal information that was used to access your medical information, along with any new information retrieved from your medical records themselves, can be used to open new credit accounts and run up bills on your credit. This can leave you with the double dose of unpaid credit card bills or loans and a big headache on your credit report.

We have all read about the effects of identity theft and the financial problems that it can cause many people. It seems that medical identity theft can be considered even more sinister, since it can have an adverse affect on your physical health as well as your financial health.