Medical Identity Theft
Identity theft can come in different forms and can have a variety of different motives. Theft that involves the healthcare industry has also recently become prevalent. This type of crime can be committed by those who are working in a medical setting. These criminals can use health insurance and personal information to defraud insurance companies.
This type of fraud is a variation on traditional identity theft scams. With a traditional scam, your personal data is utilized to run up current credit resources. New credit and loan accounts are also opened for the same purpose. However, with a medical identity theft, the focus is more limited. Here, a specific type of funding is obtained. But the victim’s finances can still be affected. In addition, the victim’s health may also be affected.
Results of medical identity theft
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), there are several signs that one might be a medical identity theft victim:
• You are unable to get medical insurance based on a condition that you don’t actually have.
• You are told that you have reached your medical insurance compensation limit.
• Unrecognized medical insurance collection notices on your credit report.
• Debt collection communication involving unrecognized medical expenses.
• You receive an unexpected bill for medical services.
There are far more serious effects, as well. If an imposter uses your medical insurance for treatment, that person’s medical information is recorded. This means that there may be incorrect medical information used to treat the victim. Such false information can include critical items such as; wrong blood type, incorrect test results and diagnoses and allergies that you don’t have. This can lead to improper medical care. Illness, injury or even death may be the result.
Way to prevent medical identity theft
Although there is no actual fool-proof way to completely eliminate this threat, some things can be done. According to the FTC, you can minimize the threat by:
• Make sure that all sources are verified before submitting any information. Medical identity theft scammers can pose as government officials, pharmacies, doctors, clinics and medical insurance companies.
• Beware of sources that promise “free” healthcare products and services in exchange for healthcard information.
• Secure your health insurance and medical information. Be especially careful when storing sensitive information on a computer. Ask questions regarding the security of your information. How are the agencies that you normally deal with securing sensitive data? Will the information be shared? When providing information online, make sure the website is secure. This can be determined by noting a “lock” icon at the bottom of the browser. Additionally, instead of http: at the beginning of the URL, you will see https: at the beginning (note the “s” in front of the “p”). One should also remember that email is not an inherently secure form of communication.
• Shred sensitive data before throwing it in the trash.
• Read through any medical bills carefully. Note any discrepancies in treatments received and treatments billed.
How to Detect Medical Identity Theft
The best way to detect medical identity theft and fraud is to pay careful attention to your records. These include financial, insurance and medical statements. Always read the “Explanation of Benefits” (EOB) that is included with your health plan. In addition, order copies of your credit reports. Each year, the government has stipulated that you are entitled to a free copy of your credit reports. This stipulation extends to the three major credit reporting agencies; Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. (See: references 1)
Once you have done this, look for suspicious entries. These will include accounts and inquiries that you are unfamiliar with. In addition, check the address, employers, name and social security number for accuracy. If there are discrepancies, have them removed or fixed.
Request an updated copy of your medical records. Review them on a regular basis. Since there is no central source for all medical records, you need to contact each health care provider. This situation is currently undergoing change. Eventually, health care medical records will be accessed through Electronic Medical Records (EMR) technology. This is already in effect in some areas. The same will hold true for medical prescriptions. Review your records before receiving further health care and report any discrepancies immediately.
1. Free Annual Credit reports, Federal Trade Commission, http://www.ftc.gov/freereports