Medical records are one-stop shopping for identity thieves. There is no need to slowly gather bits and pieces of someone’s personal information – it’s all packaged together: Social Security number, name, address, phone number, even payment accounts. Crooks have received everything from medication to a liver transplant using a stolen identity. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg! More than just medical treatment is at stake. Once a thief’s medical information is entered into your records, it’s extremely difficult to get rid of that information. It’s conceivable, for example, that at a later date, you’ll need a Type A blood transfusion but be given the thief’s Type B with dire consequences.
Identity theft of medical records has more than doubled since 2008, as stated in Javelin’s 2010 Identity Fraud Survey Report. It’s not difficult to imagine the misery that a million Americans have suffered during the past two years when their identities were stolen. And the Poneman Institute, in their National Study on Medical Identity Theft, states that another half million people loaned their insurance cards to uninsured family members and friends. The unsavvy lenders have incurred huge medical bills in this “friendly fraud”.
Larry Ponemon says that, on average, it costs $20,000 to resolve a medical identity theft case. Unlike credit card companies,where the banks incur the losses, the victims often have to pay for the fraudulent care and sometimes lose their health insurance or have to pay higher premiums to restore their accounts. Even though there are HIPAA laws to protect your privacy, not all health care organizations have strict safeguards in place.
The risk goes even further: if someone is treated using your identity, your medical records will more than likely be altered and could compromise your treatment and ability to get service. According to Larry Ponemon, “stolen medical records offer a complete dossier to get a passport in a victim’s name that could be used for terrorism.”
Ways to Protect Yourself:
- When you receive an Explanation of Benefits from insurers, read it carefully and save – don’t throw it away even when it says “this is not a bill”! If a treatment date or doctor’s name is not familiar to you, call the insurer and the billing physician to resolve.
- If your wallet is stolen, contact your insurance company just as you would your credit card company. Don’t carry your Medicare card in your wallet. Carry a photocopy and black out the last four digits of the SS#.
- Urge your health care providers to ask patients for photo ID’s.
- Ask your doctors for copies of everything in your medical files, even if you have to pay for them.
- Monitor your credit report at www.AnnualCreditReport.com. If you see medical billing errors, contact your insurer and the three credit bureaus, TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax.
- Avoid Internet and storefront offers of free treatment and supplies.
- Ask for a list of benefits paid in your name and an “accounting of disclosures” which shows who got your records.
John Sileo became one of America’s leading Information Control Speakers & sought after Identity Theft Experts after he lost his business and more than $300,000 to identity theft and data breach. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer and the FDIC. To learn more about having him speak at your next meeting or conference, contact him by email or on 800.258.8076.