Medical Identity Theft
Medical ID theft is a rapidly growing and frightening issue that now impacts almost 6% of Americans. A recent study by the by The Ponemon Institute, ‘The National Study on Medical Identity Theft,’ indicates there have been more than 1.4 million victims of medical ID theft in the last two years alone. Medical ID theft has more than doubled since 2008 – with no end in sight.
What is Medical ID Theft?
Simply put, medical ID theft occurs when your identity is taken from your insurance information and used by an individual or organization for the purpose of acquiring services or goods. In reality, it’s even worse than it sound. Types of medical identity theft can include:
- Someone seeking medical treatment under your policy (resulting in a bill that lands in your mailbox)
- Someone filing false treatment claims against your health plan in order to generate income or purchase medical insurance
- Purchase of prescription drugs that can then be sold.
In other cases personal information can be sold outright for the purpose of using it for additional forms of identity theft. However it’s used, medical ID theft is occurring with a steadily increasing frequency and the consequences for its victims are more severe and widespread each day it goes undetected.
Am I at risk for Medical ID Theft?
One truly disturbing aspect of medical ID theft is just how easy it is to commit. Thieves can obtain your information through lost or stolen purses and wallets, written correspondence found in your mailbox, breaches in data security, unscrupulous medical personnel, or even family members and colleagues who have access to your information. In fact, it’s reported that 33% of medical ID theft occurred when a friend or family member used an individual’s medical information without their knowledge. Even more troubling is that because medical ID theft requires less information than traditional identity fraud (often no SSN is required when seeking services), anyone with a medical history can be at risk.
What can happen if my identity is stolen?
With costs averaging more than $20,000 to resolve cases of medical ID theft, a potentially huge financial burden is only one of the repercussions victims may face. These costs can include billing for services or treatments you didn’t receive, higher premiums, or even outright loss of health insurance. To say nothing of the time and distress correcting the theft will cause or the potential credit issues resulting from erroneous billing.
But financial problems aren’t the only danger. In fact, given the nature of this crime, monetary complications very well may be the least of your problems. Consider a scenario where you find yourself in a hospital seeking care. If your medical ID is stolen you may discover your health benefits completely depleted. Even more dangerous is the possibility of additional or inaccurate information and data in your medical records – the very same records physicians and other medical personnel will reference to treat you. An inaccurate blood type or noted allergy could quickly escalate an emergency room visit into a life-threatening situation or worse.
How can I prevent Medical ID Theft?
Often the most difficult type to prevent or detect, medical ID theft is a clear example of how an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In addition to monitoring available credit reports for indicators like fraudulent medical debts, you should also:
- Shop for an identity theft protection service with family plans – products like AllClear ID provide peace of mind by leveraging experts, experience, and technology to monitor, protect, and restore your identity.
- Avoid internet services that offer treatment or medication – especially those that require sensitive information
- Be certain to review any “Explanation of Benefits” statements you receive from your insurer and contact them immediately if you find discrepancies. Also, don’t overlook statements that read, “This is not a bill.” If you don’t recognize the doctor or the treatment call your insurer immediately.
- Regularly review your medical records for discrepancies.
- Treat your insurance card for what it is – a valuable piece of identification with personal data you need to protect.
- Annually, ask your insurer for a listing of benefits paid out in your name.
What do I do if my Medical ID is stolen?
There’s just no getting around it – medical ID theft is happening more and more frequently. Every day there are people who discover after a phone call, e-mail, or registered letter they’re suddenly in a fight for their financial stability, peace of mind, and ultimately, their identity.
According to ‘The National Study on Medical Identity Theft’ 29% of victims discovered fraudulent activity one year after it occurred, and 21% reported that it took two or more years before they became aware. That’s potentially more than two years of damage that can negatively impact your credit, cause higher health premiums or loss of coverage, and lead to difficult and costly legal troubles.
If your medical ID has been stolen you need to take action right away. Here are some steps to take to fix the problem:
- File a police report.
- Send the police report to your insurers, physicians, and credit bureaus.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (via telephone 1-877-438-4338 or file an ID Theft Complaint Form online.)
- Contact the AllClear ID team. We can advise you on the repair process and help you connect with additional resources needed to clear your record.
- Report fraudulent activities to credit reporting agencies and request that a fraud alert be added to your information.
- To prevent further identity theft, sign up for AllClear ID.
- If you have medical accounts that get turned over to a collection agency, contact AllClear ID for assistance.
One of the fastest growing segments of identity fraud, medical ID theft is responsible for approximately one out of every four reports of ID theft today and can have devastating consequences that last for years. It’s important to remember that it’s never too early to begin protecting yourself and your loved ones and getting started is simple.
Learn more about how you can get peace of mind with AllClear ID Identity Protection.