Medical Identities: Valuable for Thieves, Essential to Protect
Jackie here. If you think that ID thieves are only after credit card information, think again. Medical records are highly valuable to thieves as they contain information that can be used to commit ID theft (SSNs, birth dates, etc.) and also information that can be used to obtain medical treatment fraudulently (insurance information, etc.). Thieves love medical records and this form of theft is growing rapidly (up 20% from last year, according to the Ponemon Institute).
The Problem with Digital Medical Records
One reason for the uptick in medical record theft is the conversion of medical records from hard copies to digital. Digital records can be stolen remotely by hackers and don’t take near the amount of space that actual paper files do.
There isn’t anything you can do about digital records; this is the only type of record offered by many practices and in many cases the digital records are required by law, but there are still ways to protect yourself from medical ID theft. Here are some tips to try:
Don’t Provide Your SSN without Reason- Many medical practices ask for SSNs even though they aren’t necessarily needed. If you’re asked for your Social Security number, ask why. Don’t provide it unless it is absolutely needed.
Don’t Share Your Driver’s License Number- Another number that is often requested, but rarely needed is your driver’s license number. If you are asked for it, see if there is another method of identification available.
Remove Unneeded Information from Old Records- Odds are you’ve already shared your SSN and driver’s license number with many medical providers. This doesn’t mean these numbers have to be a part of your record forever. You can ask to have this information removed.
Check Your Records- Obtain copies of your medical records from your doctors at least once a year and analyze them like you would a credit report. Look for treatments you didn’t receive, fraudulent charges, etc.
Don’t Just Toss Old Records- When disposing of old medical records, explanation of benefits forms, etc. dispose of them properly. Always shred or destroy records you’re tossing out and keep any records you need in a secure place.
Help Your Children- Young children and the elderly are especially popular targets for medical ID theft. Help those in your care to understand the importance of caution when sharing medical information and assist with checking records as needed.
Medical ID theft is a growing problem, but with a little caution there is much you can do to protect yourself and your family.