Signs You Could Be a Victim of Medical Identity Theft and Why it Could be a Matter of Life or Death

Even identity theft victims call medical identity theft “a whole other realm … a different animal.”

Medical identity theft takes place when a criminal uses your name or health insurance benefits in order to see a doctor, files claims with your insurance or even gets prescription medications.

This sounds frustrating for certain, but did you know it’s also life threatening?

If you’re wondering “How so?” let us explain. What if someone used your medical benefits for a procedure that you’ve never had, which then shows up in your medical record?

That sort of confusion could delay or even prevent treatment.

For example, maybe you have symptoms of gallstones or appendicitis but the doc discounts it because, according to your medical record, you don’t have a gallbladder, or your appendix was removed years ago.

Are you starting to see how medical identity theft could put you at risk?

What if the thief’s information overwrites yours when it comes to something critical, like a drug allergy or your blood type?

As you can imagine, the ramifications could be life or death for someone.

This Today story details what happened to Nikki Gordon, a Portland, Oregon teenager who tried to donate blood at her high school but was turned away because, according to her medical records, she had AIDS.

Except she didn’t.

Turns out someone in California had used her Social Security number to get treatment for the disease, thus the error.

“A blood test proved Gordon did not have AIDS, but it took a great deal of work over the course of many years to get her records corrected,” according to the story.

The Signs

According to the Federal Trade Commission, signs of medical identity theft include:

  • A bill for medical services you didn’t receive
  • A call from a debt collector about a medical debt you don’t owe
  • Medical collection notices on your credit report that you don’t recognize
  • A notice from your health plan saying you reached your benefit limit
  • A denial of insurance because your medical records show a condition you don’t have.

So what can you do to help protect yourself? Read our blogpost “Six Safeguards You Can Take To Protect Your Private Medical Health Information.”


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