Medical Identity Theft
April 20, 2009 by Stephanie Potash
Medical Identity Theft?
Many people are familiar with identity theft, in which con artists use another person’s personal information to commit fraud. Identity theft encompasses a range of crimes, form using a stolen credit card to make an illegal purchase to employing a pilfered Social Security number to establish a new identity.
One truly amazing twist on this trend is medical identity theft, a crime that can threaten you family’s well-being. Here is an overview of medical identity theft and some steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim:
Anatomy of a Crime
Much like other identity thieves, medical ID scammers steal personal data, typically insurance information or Social Security numbers. The difference is that these scams involve health care. These thieves may use your identity to get medical care or medications. In some cases, dishonest health care providers or a scammer may use stolen personal information to file a false claim and receive reimbursement from an insurance company. If you are the victim of medical ID theft, you likely will not be aware that your data has been stolen and that your medical records now show a history of illnesses or procedures that you have never had.
Unlike conventional identity theft, medical identity theft can actually endanger your health. If a scammer has medical procedures performed using your identity, that person’s medical history is now added to your own. Medical identity theft victims who go into the hospital for needed procedures have found that their records show incorrect information about previous medical conditions. As a result of such mix-ups, patients may receive the wrong blood type in a transfusion or be given a drug to which they’re allergic. There are financial consequences as well. Victims often face credit problems after scammers amass unpaid bills in their name, which can damage their credit ratings.
Look for Warning Signs
Medical identity thieves carefully conceal their actions, but there are warning signs that can alert you to a possible problem. For example, you may get a communication from your insurer or a bill from a physician that refers to an unfamiliar medical visit or service. You may also receive notices demanding payment for medical bills in your name. If any of these occur, contact the insurance company or physician immediately to find out more information. The World Privacy Forum also recommends that you ask your insurer for a listing of benefits paid in your name and request a copy of your current medical files from all your insurers.
A Personal Health Record
Keep a personal health record that details any illnesses you have had, medical services you’ve received and medications you take. It will help you identify potential medical ID theft when something on your records doesn’t make sense.