Medical identity theft is a serious problem that can have devastating consequences for victims. It is a silent crime that occurs when someone uses another person’s personal information, such as their name, Social Security number or health insurance ID number to obtain medical care or services. You may find false information in your medical records, be billed for medical services they did not receive or be denied insurance coverage because of the false information in their records. In some cases, someone might arrest you for crimes you did not commit as a result of the false information in your records.
Medical identity theft is a growing problem in the United States. The largest healthcare data breach of 2021 exposed personal data of more than 3.5 million patients. According to the Federal Trade Commission, there were more than 5.8 million reports of identity theft in 2021, and medical identity theft was one of the most common type of identity theft reported. The problem is likely even bigger than that, as many victims may not realize they have been victims of medical identity theft until they have problems with their credit or are denied insurance coverage.
How to Spot Medical Identity Theft
Medical identity theft is a silent crime because you often don’t know someone used your medical identity until damage is already done. Your medical identity is being used fraudulently if you:
- Receive a bill for medical services you did not receive.
- Receive calls from debt collectors for unpaid medical bills that you do not owe.
- Are denied insurance coverage because of information in your medical records that is not true.
If you recognize any of these warning signs, it’s important to act quickly.
Immediate Action Steps
Medical identity theft can be detrimental to your health and your finances. If you suspect you are a victim of medical identity theft, follow these action steps right away:
- Contact the credit reporting agencies and place a fraud alert on your credit report.
- Contact your health insurance company and explain what happened.
- File a police report and get a copy of the report.
- Visit IdentityTheft.gov from the Federal Trade Commission to file a report and create a personalized plan for recovery.
- Keep track of all correspondence related to the identity theft, including letters, emails, and phone calls.
By taking these steps, you can protect yourself from further damage and begin repairing the damage done.
How to Protect Yourself From Medical Identity Theft
The best way to protect yourself from medical identity theft is to be proactive about your personal information. Here are some tips to help you protect your medical identity:
- Keep your personal information safe. Keep your Social Security number, health insurance ID number, and other personal information in a safe place. Do not carry this information with you unless absolutely necessary.
- Check your credit report and medical records regularly. By checking your credit report and medical records on a regular basis, you can catch any discrepancies early on and take action to correct them.
- Be careful about who you give your personal information to. Don’t give out your personal information to anyone unless you are sure they are legitimate. Be especially careful about giving out your information online or over the phone.
- Shred personal and financial documents before throwing them away. Identity thieves can rummage through your trash to find personal information such as account numbers and Social Security numbers. By shredding these documents before you throw them away, you can help protect yourself from identity theft.
- Be cautious about opening email attachments or clicking on links from unfamiliar sender. Phishing emails with malicious attachments and links can contain viruses that can infect your computer and give thieves access to your personal information. Only open email attachments and click on links from people you know and trust.
Medical identity theft is a serious problem that can have lasting consequences for your health and your finances. Even if you are careful, you may still become a victim of this crime. If you suspect you are a victim of medical identity theft, take action immediately to protect yourself and resolve the issue.