Medical ID Theft Can Turn Dangerous

By: Absolute Team | 1/13/2014

Health care fraud costs an estimated $80 billion a year in the US, including billing for unnecessary or unperformed services or equipment, Medicare fraud. Medicare fraud is also known as Medical identity theft and happens when someone steals your personal information (name, Social Security number, or Medicare number) to obtain medical care, buy drugs, or submit fake billings to Medicare in your name. Aside from damaging your credit rating and costing both you and the government money, medical identity theft can also be life threatening if wrong information ends up in your medical records. What if you are given the wrong medication? Or treated for the wrong illness? Or prevented from receiving help due to billing issues?

According to the 2013 Survey on Medical Identity Theft, medical identity theft affected 1.84 million US residents in 2012 and was most commonly done by someone who knows the victim very well; often, the victim had shared credentials with family and friends without understanding the consequences (30%). In other cases, credentials were taken without permission (28%). Providing personal information to a fake email or spoofed website was next common (8%), followed by a healthcare breach (7%) or insider theft (5%). 36% of victims incurred out-of-pocket expenses related to medical identity theft, on average incurring $18,660 in costs. Total out-of-pocket expenses for consumers related to medical identity theft was over $12 million in the US for 2012, a 19% increase over costs from the previous year.

How to Secure Your Medical Information

  • Never sign blank insurance forms
  • Do not do business with telephone salespeople trying to pitch you medical equipment servicing for ‘free’ - free services never require your Medicare number!
  • Do not provide insurance/Medicare information to people who aren’t providing medical services
  • Don’t allow anyone to borrow your insurance/Medicare card
  • Beware of medical services that are "free" or sound too good to be true
  • If you receive a call asking for you to do a "health survey" by asking your Medicare number, this is a scam
  • Don't give out payment details over the phone for an unsolicited and unexpected call from "Medicare" or anything health related - it's likely a scam. If in doubt, look up official numbers and call the company back yourself.
  • Keep accurate medical records (doctors seen, services rendered, dates)
  • Review your records against your medical bills (most fraud is discovered in health records)
  • Don’t click on links in health-related offers received by email
  • Shred all medical documents you no longer need
  • Lock all personally identifiable information in a lockbox or safe
  • Destroy the labels on your prescription bottles before disposing of them
  • Don't leave medical information on your computer (this includes even simply your Medicare number). Back up any critical files somewhere secure and encrypted.
  • Don't stay logged into medical services; do not store your passwords in your browser (instead, use a Password Manager)
  • Install Absolute LoJack to wipe personal data from your devices, and track it down, in the event of theft

If you find a problem with your medical bill, call your health care provider and your health plan provider immediately. If you suspect you’re a victim of fraud, notify the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General and Medicare. You can also report a misuse of your information to the FTC.

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