Medical Identity Theft Basics and How to Avoid Medical Identity Fraud.
What is Medical Identity Theft? Medical identity theft is when someone uses your personal information, possibly including your medical insurance information, to commit fraud or theft of medical services. For example, a medical identity thief may use your personal information to illegally obtain medical treatment in your name, naming you or your medical insurance company reponsible for the billing.
Identity thieves use your personal information in many ways, including:
- In simple cases, the theft occurs when someone uses your personal information and social security number in an emergency room situation, gaining medical services in your name, and leaving you with unpaid medical bills in your name. These bills may or may not turn into medical collections eventually showing up on your credit report.
- Or the theft may involve your medical insurance coverage where someone acquires your medical insurance information and bills costly medical services to your insurance carrier without your knowlege.
- Guard your personal information. Your personal and medical insurance information is especially vulnerable when you lose the information in the case of a lost wallet or purse, or when the information is stolen through robbery or burglary. Your personal information may also be compromised when companies having your information accidently leak the information through a data breach, or an employee knowingly sells your information to other criminals.
Can you prevent or avoid medical identity theft from occurring?
Like any crime, you cannot safeguard yourself completely, but there are reasonable steps you can take to lessen your exposure. Here are some steps to consider:
- Check your 3 credit reports periodically to see if there are unusual or unexplained items on your reports.
- Protect your medical insurance card like you would a credit card. Report it lost or stolen if that occurs - especially protect your Medicare card which may have your social security number on the ID card.
- Keep your social security card and number safe. Do not carry your social security card or number on you, in your wallet or purse, unless it is absolutly necessary.
- Review your medical insurance statements and make sure you actually had the procedures and appointments described.
What can you do if you are a victime of medical identity theft?
- File a police report. It may come in handy to clear up payment problems for the fraudulent services, and it may also help if your credit report gets hit with fraudulent collections and late payment reports.
- If your medical insurance company is involved, call the antifraud unit of your carrier. Hopefully they will have a person who deals with this type of crime and will help you clear your record.
- Check your 3 credit reports for signs that the identity theft is affecting your credit report. Dispute any inaccurate items in your credit reports dealing with the fraud. Possibly include a consumer statement in your credit report that you were a victim of medical identity theft.
More good information on Medical Identity Theft is also available from The World Privacy Forum including FAQS and consumer tips.