Medical Identity Theft

Help Keep Your Medical Information Safe

Medical identity theft can occur when an identity thief steals or uses your personal information to submit fraudulent claims to Medicare or other health insurers without your knowledge. The thieves get unauthorized access to your name, birth date, Social Security number, and if you’re over 65, your Medicare number to commit fraud. Then they can either sell this information on the Dark Web, or use the information to obtain prescription drugs and medical services and leave you with the bills.

Many doctors’ offices and hospitals have instituted new procedures to help protect against medical identity theft. You may be required to take a photo when visiting a doctor’s office for the first time, give your name and date of birth before all medical procedures, and provide your driver’s license when visiting the hospital.

Here are a few things you can do to help protect your medical information from identity thieves.

1.    Less Is More: Only give the doctor’s office, hospitals, and insurers pertinent personal information.  Your Social Security number may not be necessary when filling out medical forms. When asked for your name and birth date, be sure no one around you can hear this information.

2.    Shred Patient Bracelets: When your medical procedure is complete, shred the paper medical ID bracelet, which contains your personal information.

3.    Medical Bracelet/Necklace Safety Tips: People with certain conditions such as fatal allergies, epilepsy, or diabetes, sometimes wear medical bracelets or necklaces containing their medical information in case of an emergency. Since this “medical jewelry” may contain personal information that could be used for identity theft, you might want to consider what information should be etched on your jewelry, and if the data is sensitive.

4.    Review All Your Medical Communications: Many hospitals have secure patient portals containing your electronic medical records. Review all this information carefully to make sure you’re not getting billed for someone else’s medical care. When you receive statements or bills in the mail, be sure to examine them carefully for signs of fraud. Is there a treatment or procedure that you didn’t receive? This could be a sign that someone else has stolen your medical information.

If you think your medical information has been compromised, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-438-4338. You can also contact your health insurance company’s fraud department. If you suspect you’ve been the victim of Medicare fraud, contact the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Inspector General at 1-800-447-8477.

Going to your doctor or dentist is stressful enough and shouldn’t be an occasion for identity theft. You can help make it less painful by keeping your information safe from identity thieves.