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What Is Medical Identity Theft and What Can You Do About It?

July 22, 2019

What puts you at risk for medical identity theft?   If you have spent much time in the hospital or the doctor’s office, you know that a lot of paperwork is required. Medical professionals keep detailed records of their patients to ensure that they have all the information needed to care for them. The more time you have spent in a doctor’s office or a hospital, the more paperwork you have filled out and filed away at the front desk. This can be a good thing; it means the healthcare professionals are doing their job well.   However, it can also mean that you are at risk for medical identity theft. Have you ever heard of it? Medical identity theft can occur after your healthcare facility becomes the victim of a data breach or a data leak. Thieves can obtain your information as a result of breaches. Identity thieves can obtain your medical records and personal information to perform a number of nefarious activities, such as:   Using your information to get money via extortion Selling your information on the dark web Obtaining healthcare services or treatments with your identity Filling prescriptions with your identity Performing other medical-related fraud   All of this can occur under your own name.   When medical identity theft happens to you, it can be annoying and unnerving. It can take months before you even notice a change in your medical records or insurance costs due to delays in billing between healthcare providers and insurance. And a lot of medical identity theft happens with Medicare and Medicaid because it can be harder to spot suspicious behavior on large networks and thieves consider the elderly to be easy targets.   It can happen to anyone.   Here is an example: Kim’s healthcare facility has informed her that one of their databases was breached. For a few weeks, Kim keeps a close eye on her medical and medical billing records. Nothing suspicious occurs, so she assumes her identity is secure and moves on with her life. Several months later, Kim gets a bill from her health care provider. She owes over $10,000 for a serious surgery that she never had! She has been the victim of medical identity theft. The thief who stole her medical records months ago has finally started using her information to obtain healthcare under her name or has used her health insurance to obtain these surgical services. Now Kim has to figure out what to do; is she responsible for paying the bills herself or should she get a lawyer?   If your medical identity information is compromised by theft, it is costly to fix. It can take thousands of dollars and several months or years to recover your healthcare information. If you don’t want to pay the bills that the thief has run up, you are left with the daunting task of contacting the medical facility and your insurance company to work out the kinks in your bills.  It is profoundly difficult to prove that you did not receive these services and it is often challenging to make headway with insurance companies without legal representation. Dealing with the consequences of medical identity theft by yourself can be costly and time consuming.   Kim’s uncle has also been the victim of medical identity theft in the past. When it happened to him, he hired a lawyer to fight the bills and try to bring the identity thief to justice. Of course, the legal fees cost him thousands of dollars. And in the end, Kim’s uncle was unable to find the culprit and get the justice he deserved. As is almost always the case, it was also impossible for him to recover his medical identity information once it was stolen and altered by the thief. So, feeling backed into a corner, Kim takes the other route: She gives in and pays for the medical bills that the identity thief has created in her name.   Beyond the time and cost, there is another serious result of medical identity theft. When your medical identity is stolen, it can easily affect, change, or delay your own healthcare in the future.   Kim has been going to the same doctor for the past few years. However, he recently referred her to a specialist, whom she has never met before. The medical identity thief who is using Kim’s identity for medical procedures, has obtained services for a severe lung condition under Kim’s name. Since the medical specialist doesn’t know Kim well, he writes out a prescription for lung medication without knowing it is wrong for the real Kim. Unless Kim checks her prescription slip or asks questions about her medication history, she could end up paying for and possibly consuming medicine that she doesn’t need. It is crucial for her to pay attention to her medical records and prescription slips to know what medicines she should take.   Take precautions.   It is hard to fight medical identity theft, but there are a few precautions you can take to better protect yourself before it ever happens:   Get copies of your medical records every time you receive treatment and check them often to watch for errors. Don’t give out your Social Security number, driver’s license or other government-issued IDs, unless it is absolutely necessary while signing in for your appointment. Don’t share your health and personal info over the phone. You also should avoid sharing your info on the internet, since this is an easy target for thieves to see what your health problems are. They can then pretend they are you while obtaining healthcare in your name, which makes their fraud more believable. Know that “friendly fraud” is illegal. “Friendly fraud” is when you share your health insurance ID with relatives or friends so they can obtain healthcare under your insurance. This is punishable by law. Secure your medical insurance and medical records online and offline. Shred any documents you don’t need to keep.   The theft of Kim’s medical identity information has left her at a loss. Her only options are to hire a lawyer or pay the exorbitant medical bills herself. She will never be able to recover her medical information as it was, so she now has to go through the hassle of getting her health insurance and hospital records back in order. However, unlike Kim, you do not need to worry. IDShield exists to help people like you and Kim, so you don’t have to try to fix medical identity theft on your own. An IDShield Membership gives you instant access to consultation if you ever have questions about how to help keep your medical identity information safe from theft. IDShield also monitors the dark web for medical ID numbers. In the event of a theft, IDShield provides Licensed Private Investigators who work personally with you to help restore your information. IDShield will fight in your corner to keep you from having to cover all costs that a thief has run up in your name. Learn more about how IDShield works by visiting our “How It Works” page on IDShield.com.   *Disclaimer: The examples above are for illustration purposes only and are not actual accounts.