According to a study in 2013 from the Ponemon Institute, over 2 million Americans are the victims of medical identity theft every year. From things like Medicare and Social Security information to false claims and using false information to purchase drugs, medical identity theft can have the same effect on a person’s bank account as any other type and can be extremely damaging financially. Indeed, if incorrect information can find its way into a person’s personal medical records, it might even result in that person receiving the incorrect type of treatment, something that can be extremely dangerous and life-threatening.
32% of the people surveyed said that they were made aware of the fact that they were victims of medical identity theft when they discovered errors on their medical records. The fact is, while guarding against any type of identity theft should be part of any persons routine, there are some added cautions that need to be take in preventing medical identity theft. These include;
- Verifying exactly who you are talking before sharing any type of medical information is extremely important. In fact, the only time that you should give medical information over the phone or via email is if you are the person that has initiated the contact with your provider and you are positive that the person you’re talking with is a legitimate employee. The reason is that many medical identity thieves pose as representatives of government agencies, insurance companies and even doctors’ offices in order to scam consumers and get their personal information.
- Be sure that all of your medical and insurance records and forms are always kept securely locked in either a file cabinet, a drawer or a lockbox. If you want to use an online resource to manage your healthcare information, beware of sites that ask for too much personal information like your Social Security number.
- If you have any documents that you no longer need, make sure to shred them completely before discarding them in the trash. This includes health insurance forms, records and any bills that you have, making sure that you destroy any labels on them and even the ones on any prescription pill bottles that you might be throwing this away.
- Treat your Medicare and Social Security card the same way you would your credit card and guard them securely. Like a credit card, if you lose one or one is stolen you can be exposed to fraud and open yourself up to medical identity theft.
- Never let another person use your Medicare card. The Ponemon survey showed that over 30% of respondents had actually let a family member use their Medicare ID card to get some type of health service, something that is not only illegal but also could expose them to a higher risk of medical identity theft.
- In 2012 it was shown that only 10% of people who were victims of medical identity theft, something that costs an average of $22,000 per victim, were able to resolve their issues and get that money returned.
Simply put, any type of identity theft is not only frightening but also harmful to your financial health (no pun intended). Medical identity theft has the additional danger of actually being life-threatening, so be sure to prevent it upfront so that your records, your benefits and your life are never put in danger.