The Truth About Medical Identity Theft

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So you think you're able to prevent identity theft by keeping credit card numbers and other personal information out of the wrong hands?

Well, beware the new type of ID theft gaining popularity among crooks: medical identity theft.

Brenda Evans Hart, the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act privacy officer at Baylor College of Medicine, said that when the hospital started notifying doctors about such thefts two years ago, officials thought it was being committed by people who didn't have medical insurance.

"I think now it's gone so far as to be part of organized crime for fraud regarding Medicare, Medicaid and regular commercial insurance," Hart said. "And of course, that comes out of the taxpayers' pockets as well."

Hart and other health care experts say there are several forms of medical identity theft, but most involve records stolen by people who work for health-care facilities. Then they are sold to organized crime groups and others that fraudulently bill insurance companies.

In a study released last year, the Federal Trade Commission said 3 percent of all financial identity theft victims were also hit by medical identity theft.

Source: -Health & Medicine


Medical Identity Theft;

I have often written about the various forms of identity theft but medical identity theft is one that can cost you more than money -it it can cost you your life.

If a thief tampers with your medical records, your chart could have the wrong history and diagnoses. Those errors can cause serious trouble when you do need medical care. Due to HIPPA privacy laws, it's very difficult to clean up inaccurate medical histories.

There are two facets to medical identity theft; one is financial and the other involves your health care. Medical identity theft happens when a thief uses your social security number or health insurance to obtain medical services and health care benefits -including prescriptions, without your knowledge. Medical identity theft can carry with it damaging, far-reaching effects. Not only is medical id theft hard to detect, it is even more difficult to correct than the more commonly recognized -financial identity theft. 

Victims of medical identity theft have found their medical histories contaminated with false diagnosis, billings for surgeries they never had, prescriptions they never received and bogus allergies and blood type notations -all services and notations that belong to someone else -the thief! And hospitals and insurance companies face massive expenses when it comes to medical identity theft, as they are forced to write-off charges incurred by the thieves.

What to Watch For:

  • When you receive a notice from your insurance company, open it immediately. If you receive any notices for treatment that you don't recognize -dispute with your insurance company. After reading these notices, make sure you shred them before throwing them in the trash. Closely review your "explanation of benefits" statements.
  • Check your credit report regularly. If you find medical bills on your credit reports that you don't recognize, dispute them with the credit reporting agencies and notify your insurance company.  
  • If you receive mail from hospitals where you have or haven't been a patient, don't assume that this mail is junk mail and throw it away. It could be a notice of a data breach or data theft. If you get this type of notice, you should notify the Credit reporting agencies and have fraud alerts placed on your credit file.

If you're a victim
If you think you're a victim of medical identity theft:

•Contact your health provider and your insurer. Most insurers have anti-fraud hot lines staffed by experts who can talk you through what to do. Typically, they will request a new insurance card for you and have a watch put on your old one.

•File a police report.

•Correct erroneous and false information in your file. Sending copies of a police report to insurers, providers and credit bureaus may be a step in cleaning up the problem.

•Take detailed notes. Write down the name and contact information of everyone you speak to.

Where to get help Patient Privacy Rights is a nonprofit organization founded in 2004 by Deborah Peel. The organization is dedicated to ensuring Americans control all access to their health records. This Web site has information on health privacy. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has information on medical privacy, including privacy provisions of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. The World Privacy Forum offers tips about what to do if you are a victim and links to other resources.

Search this blog for More info on recent data breaches and  Medical Identity Theft

See also:

Credit Card Companies Fueling Healthcare Associated Identity Theft (HAIT) Crimes

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