Everything You Need to Know About Medical Identity Theft

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Identity theft has become an all-too-common occurrence in our technological world. And while you may know about the risks associated with credit and debit card theft, phishing scams, and dangerous hackers, there are many different wants a thief can use your information. Medical identity theft is becoming more common and in order to protect yourself from this type of fraud, knowledge is key. Here's everything you need to know about medical ID theft, how it's done, and how you can start protecting yourself today.

What Is Medical Identity Theft?

Medical ID theft occurs when an identity thief uses your personal information to obtain medical services, goods, and treatments. A thief will steal pieces of your personal information with the hopes of impersonating you, to receive treatments, make fraudulent claims, and more. Armed with just a few bits of data, medical identity thieves can use your identity to get prescriptions filled, see a doctor, or even sell your medical history. It is estimated that nearly one in three health records  were breached or compromised in the year 2016 alone, costing the health industry almost $30 billion every year.

The Information an Identity Thief Needs

Identity thieves only need one or two pieces of your personal information to commit medical ID theft. This data could include your name, social security number, birth date, and more. Your PHI (personal health information), including medical history and healthcare data, could also be stolen. Your PHI typically contains most of your personal data, as well as your medical information. It is for this reason that medical identity theft is becoming increasingly common. A person's PHI can be used for the personal data it contains, as well as the medical/insurance benefits.

This information can be stolen from a variety of sources, like from a stolen or lost wallet/purse, your personal mail, or data breaches. An identity thief may also use their personal connections at physicians' offices, insurance companies, and more to steal the data of consumers.

How Can Thieves Use Your Medical ID?

With just a few bits of personal data, a thief can be well on his or her way to stealing your medical identity.   But what could an identity thief use this information for? Here are just a few of the ways an identity thief can use your information to commit medical identity theft and take advantage of your benefits:

  • To open credit cards for medical/dental services

  • To take advantage of your health insurance benefits

  • To receive treatments at hospitals or emergency locations

  • To obtain prescriptions drugs

  • To receive medical equipment

  • To receive government or benefits

  • To sell information on the dark web or black market

The Cost of Medical Identity Theft

When a thief steals your information for medical purposes, it affects more than just one person. Medical ID theft can cause ripples and damage to insurance providers, and the healthcare industry as a whole. Victims of medical ID theft can spend months trying to resolve disputes for medical claims and services. During this time, your credit and insurance could be at risk. In addition, the thief may also contribute false information to your EHR (electronic health record), which is shared among healthcare businesses, facilities, and agencies.

Signs You're a Victim of Medical ID Theft

You may be a victim of medical identity theft if you notice the following red flags:

  • You begin receiving medical bills for services you did not receive

  • You notice inaccurate details at the doctor's office, pharmacy, etc.

  • You receive phone calls from debt collectors about medical debt

  • You notice collections and red flags on your credit report

  • You receive notice from your insurance company for reaching benefit cap, denial of benefits, etc.

How to Protect Yourself From Medical ID Theft

Safely store and protect your personal information documents such as your social security card, birth certificate, and health insurance information. Pay close attention to the locations and companies which have access to your information. Shred all papers with personal data before disposing of them, including medical documents. Never share your personal information over the phone or online, unless you are certain the person is verified.

Should you lose or misplace your insurance cards or other important medical information, it is important to contact your provider and request a new account, policy number, etc. And when you receive any Explanations of Benefits or summary documents in the mail, be sure to thoroughly read through all of the benefits, claims, and treatments that have been submitted under these benefits.

What to Do if You Believe You're a Victim of Medical Identity Theft

If you believe you may be a victim of medical ID theft, it is important to act quickly. Call your insurance company and request a complete explanation of benefits and obtain whatever records you can from offices, hospitals, pharmacies, etc. These records should be thoroughly examined for incorrect or fraudulent benefits, charges, or information. Begin correcting these changes with your insurance company and doctors. It is also important to file a police report and contact a legal professional for help in correcting credit reports and other legal issues.