Medical identity theft is a growing problem. Experts estimate that between 200,000 – 500,000 people are already a victim of this crime – and most don’t even know it.
The World Privacy Forum has been a pioneer in identifying and researching medical identity theft issues. Here’s how they describe the problem:
Medical identity theft occurs when someone uses a person’s name and sometimes other parts of their identity — such as insurance information — without the person’s knowledge or consent to obtain medical services or goods, or uses the person’s identity information to make false claims for medical services or goods. Medical identity theft frequently results in erroneous entries being put into existing medical records, and can involve the creation of fictitious medical records in the victim’s name.
Medical Identity Theft Basics
So how does medical identity theft occur and how can it affect you? Here’s a video from CBS’ The Early Show that explains the basics:
Medical Identity Theft
How Can You Protect Yourself?
The World Privacy Forum has great information on detecting and preventing medical identity theft. Here are the things to watch:
- Closely monitor any “Explanation of Benefits” sent by an public or private health insurerHealth insurance companies often send out notices in the mail that describe recent medical events. Pay attention to these and contact your health care provider if they don’t look familiar.
- Pro-actively request a listing of benefits from your health insurers
- Request a copy of current medical files from each health care providerLook over these files to make sure that all the information is familiar. Report any errors or strange information to your health care provider.
- Correct erroneous and false information in your file
- Keep an eye on your credit reportMedical expenses should eventually show up on your credit report – especially unpaid accounts that were created by an identity thief.
- Request an accounting of disclosuresThis is a benefit of HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). This relates to all of the documents you now sign when going to your doctor relating to privacy and information sharing. You can request a list of all the times your medical information has been shared along with the reason for sharing.
More information from World Privacy Forum.