Medical Identity Theft Alters Medical Records Proving Dangerous to Your Health

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If you have not been a victim of medical identity theft, count yourself lucky.  This doesn't mean, however, that you should be indifferent to the possibility of being victimized by unscrupulous identity thieves who would do anything to steal your health or medical data.  Because it is difficult to prove and could entail a long-drawn-out process, medical identity theft can be a particularly scary nightmare for victims.

One thing stands out about medical identity theft:  it not only significantly affects your credit, but it can actually cost you your life.  Don't confuse the situation.  For example, if you're hospitalized and there's a person who steals your wallet while you're sleeping and uses your  cards to go on a spending spree that is not considered medical identity theft.  He stole your cards and probably caused havoc on your credit standing, but he did not use your health and insurance information to obtain medical services or benefits.

Medical identity theft goes beyond stolen credit cards.  This type of theft involves stealing your social security number or Medicare number or your insurance information.  It is also the most difficult to detect, and because of HIPPA laws proving that your medical file has been tampered with and then correcting it, can be an uphill struggle.

For America's victims of medical ID theft, there is no system to identify and correct the damage left by an impostor. In fact, a Scripps Howard News Service investigation finds:

-- Medical providers are refusing to give ID theft victims access to records, invoking the privacy rights of the thieves, according to victims, experts and hospital officials. The only way for this to change is for federal authorities to create explicit rules to help medical ID theft victims, some say.

-- Even when hospitals are alerted about erroneous medical files, they have no systematic way to fix the records, experts say.

What's necessary is a new law creating a medical ID theft victim's bill of rights, spelling out how a victim can access and correct the file and providing immunity for hospitals that do release the information. Read more here.

  World Privacy Forum Initiative
The World Privacy Forum has come up with several initiatives, one of which is an educational campaign to help victims of medical identity theft deal with their particular situation.  Knowledge and awareness, followed by concrete action, can be achieved with the proper education tools.  The World Privacy Forum recommends that all individuals involved - whether health providers, patients, and insurance personnel - be made aware of the importance of:

• Developing awareness of the crime
• Knowing the benefits of proactively requesting full and complete copies of health files from all health providers
• Teaching individuals to closely safeguard their insurance, Medicare/Medicaid and social security cards
• Letting individuals become aware of the benefits of requesting a list of benefits paid by insurers annually
• Educating people on what constitutes breach of data and teaching financial identity theft victims about the possibility of also being victimized by medical identity thieves and the different forms of this crime

Be on the alert before you actually become a victim
When a bill collector comes knocking and tells you that you have to pay an overdue bill from the hospital for a hip replacement (you never broke your hip), you'll know that you've become a victim.  Or if you apply for a job and are told that your application can't be considered because your health file revealed frequent bouts with depression (you don't even know what depression feels like), you'll know that you've become a victim.

For more information on medical identity theft, what red flags to watch out for and where to find help, read  a couple earlier blogs, here and here.
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Medical identity theft carries a most negative impact for every humanity. It is the responsibility of the person to protect himself and be alert for any theft. This is the most difficult type of id theft, so always handle with care.

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