11Mar
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In 2012, medical identity thefts victimized nearly 2 million Americans, which represents an increase of almost 25 percent over the year before. About 43 percent of identity theft involves the use of medical insurance policies.

The chances that you could be a victim are rising. Here’s how to protect yourself from having that happen.

What do they steal?

Once a thief has your name, and Social Security and insurance enrollment numbers, he or she can get access to your insurance policy. Here’s what they can get out of that:

  • Stolen free medical services

  • Stolen medical care

  • Stolen prescriptions

How medical identity theft occurs

Identity thieves obtain your information in many creative ways. It’s important for you to be aware of how these scams occur so you can guard against them.

  • Illegal partnerships. Many persons are tempted to defraud their insurance companies. The person who is not authorized to use the insurance will agree to pay the real insured for the use of his or her medical policies. In other cases, people may be tempted to “help” a friend or relative who is not insured to obtain care.

  • Partnership between thief and provider. Sometimes, the thief will use an insider, an employee at a medical facility who has access to numerous names, and policy and Social Security numbers. The insider gets paid by the thief who then re-sells the information.

  • Hacking into databases. A talented thief can hack his way into the databases of employers, insurance companies, medical centers, or doctors’ offices and obtain information in bulk. The hacker will then sell this information on the black market.

  • As part of larger identity theft. If you lose your wallet and your insurance information was kept in it, you may not only lose money to the thief, but your insurance coverage as well.

How you can be harmed

Medical identity theft can hurt you in many different ways. These are just a few:

  • Credit record consequences for unpaid bills that aren’t yours

  • Loss of coverage due to “overuse”

  • Life-threatening inaccuracies in records, such as test results or blood types

  • Legal problems

  • Higher insurance premiums due to charges the thief incurred

How to guard against medical identity theft

According to the U.S. Office of the Inspector General, there are several precautions all citizens should take to protect against medical identity theft.

  • Protect personal information. Social Security numbers, insurance policy numbers, and Medicare/Medicaid numbers must be guarded. Don’t let anyone borrow your numbers for any reason.

  • Walk away from fraud schemes. If someone offers you money to use your health care information, walk the other way and notify the police.

  • Beware of telephone fraud. You can be assured that any phone call you receive is fraudulent if the person asks for policy numbers or Social Security numbers.

  • Check all bills and statements of service. If your medical identity is stolen, this is the fastest way to stop potential loss in its tracks. Call the medical office immediately and find out what has happened.

It’s also important to keep in regular contact with your personal caregivers and verify that any health business you conduct online is with reputable services.

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