Since most Americans likely just finished up the open enrollment process for their health insurance, we thought that medical identity theft might be a good topic to revisit. With healthcare data breaches hitting the headlines nearly every week, there’s no shortage of pilfered information available to thieves. What’s more, medical records fetch a high price on the black market because criminals can use patient information to obtain medical goods or services.
In this blog post, I will share some true-life medical identity theft cases, medical identity theft statistics and a few tips on how you can stay safe.
Medical Identity Theft Cases
This reddit.com story details what happened to a Texas man who lost his wallet containing his driver’s license and health insurance card in August of this year. He discovered in November that someone had used his benefits to visit two different hospital ER departments and then to get an MRI and back surgery, after which he stayed at the hospital for a week. The bills, as you can imagine, are exorbitant and now he’s trying to clean the mess up himself — filing a report with the FTC, contacting his insurance company, the two hospitals in question and pouring over his medical records.
LibertyID’s lead restoration Specialist Suzanne Ford recently helped a client who works as a hospital emergency room nurse.
“She got called to the human resources department because someone who was admitted to the hospital used her health insurance information and received $52,000 worth of medical services,” Ford said. “They think someone in the hospital billing or admitting department provided all the information to the identity thief to come in and get services. Now she’s worried about her own medical history being compromised.”
A Wall Street Journal article highlights additional medical identity theft cases, and how terrible it is for the victims. In one instance, an undocumented immigrant used someone else’s name and benefits to get a liver transplant. In another story, a man wasn’t able to get the prescription meds he needed because his medical benefits had been stolen by someone else. The list goes on.
Medical Identity Theft Statistics
Medical identity theft, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center, is described as “the fraudulent use of an individual’s personally identifiable information (PII), such as name, Social Security number, and/or medical insurance identity number to obtain medical goods or services or to fraudulently bill for medical goods or services using an unlawfully obtained medical identity.”
Medical identity theft is a fast-growing strain of identity theft — 2.3 million cases in 2014 according to a Ponemon Institute study, up almost 22 percent from the year prior. According to one study, medical identity theft has nearly doubled in the last five years.
The worst part is medical identity theft is even harder to clean up than financial identity theft. That’s “because current consumer protections aren’t specifically designed for medical identity theft, experts warn, people need to understand that they may have to take on extensive work to clear up fraudulent bills. Some frustrated victims of medical identity theft simply give up and pay the bills themselves,” according to a Consumer Reports story.
Tips to Stay Safe
Your personal medical and insurance information is valuable to identity thieves, no doubt. You should be aware of the signs of medical identity theft. Additionally, the FTC shares a few things you can do to help prevent medical identity theft:
- Be wary if someone offers you “free” health services or products, but requires you to provide your health plan ID number. Medical identity thieves may pretend to work for an insurance company, doctors’ offices, clinic, or pharmacy to try to trick you into revealing sensitive information.
- Don’t share medical or insurance information by phone or email unless you initiated the contact and know who you’re dealing with.
- Keep paper and electronic copies of your medical and health insurance records in a safe place.
- Shred outdated health insurance forms, prescription and physician statements, and the labels from prescription bottles before you throw them out.
- If you decide to share your information online, look for a lock icon on the browser’s status bar or a URL that begins “https:” the “s” is for secure.
Unfortunately for some folks, no matter what safeguards they employ, their identity is still stolen. According to recent statistics, the average identity theft victim spends upwards of 200 hours repairing the damage. That’s the “extensive work” the Consumer Reports article highlighted. That’s where LibertyID can help. Our members save themselves massive amounts of time and stress by having our service to rely on when something does happen. If your identity is stolen, we assign you a personal recovery specialist who will clean up the mess, no matter what kind of identity theft you’re dealing with — medical, tax, Social Security, child, or criminal.
LibertyID provides expert, full service, fully managed identity theft restoration to individuals, couples, extended families* and businesses. LibertyID has a 100% success rate in resolving all forms of identity fraud on behalf of our subscribers.
*Extended families – primary individual, their spouse/partner, both sets of parents (including those that have been deceased for up to a year), and all children under the age of 25