Medical Identity on the Rise; Can be Challenging & Life-Threatening

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Medical identity theft doesn't just do a number on your credit report it can also leave potentially deadly information in your medical file! I've often written about the various forms of identity theft but medical identity theft is something that can cost you more than money - it can cost you your life.

If a thief tampers with your medical records, (or your kids) charts could have the wrong history, wrong blood types and inaccurate 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. And though physicians need to adhere to strict privacy laws concerning patients medical conditions, as of May 1st they will now also be required to ensure our financial records are equally secure.  And they are not happy about it.

The FTC Red Flag Rule regulations go into effect next month and they will require a variety of business entities -- mainly financial and banking institutions -- to implement a written program for preventing identity theft as well as detecting and responding to warning signs of such incidents. The FTC maintains that when physicians defer payment for services, they become creditors -- entities that regularly extend, renew or continue credit -- under the "red flag" rules.

The Red Flag Rule was initially set to go into effect Nov -last year, until the medical community, stunned by the news that the FTC now viewed them as "creditors", the compliance date was extended to May 1st.

The medical community continues to question the FTC's view that physicians are creditors based on their practices of billing patients for services rendered, whether through an insurance carrier or by other means. SEE:

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 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.

See earlier blogs:

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

Sources: FTC,

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This type of identity theft has the potential to grow far worse especially when all of our medical records are stored online. Just think of who will be able to access your information whenever they chose. This ought to have some celebs nervous I know I am. I bet Vegas will take bets on the on the date of the first hack job. It's only a matter of time before someone hacks their way into these records and then what will we all do?

That is fact Paul. How can anyone believe their private information will be kept safe and away from prying eyes or would-be-hackers? Naive idea in the first place.

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