Medical identity theft is an increasing concern for Americans. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, 27.9% of 2018 data breaches as of mid-June are in the Medical/Healthcare category, exposing almost 3 million records – second only to business data breaches.
Why is medical identity theft so desirable to thieves? Not only does it allow access to medical services and prescription drugs in your name, the medical/insurance billing systems are so confusing that you may not realize your identity has been stolen until a bill you were unaware of has been turned over to collections.
Fortunately, you can take some steps to protect your medical identity.
Check Medical Records – Except for a few circumstances, you have the right to a copy of your medical records. Have a copy of your records on hand in case you need them to register identity theft and settle disputes. Review those records to make sure there are no signs of fraud – like prescriptions for a medical condition that you don’t have.
It doesn’t hurt to keep your own records of doctor’s visits with dates, times, subjects discussed, and the outcomes – although if you plan to keep these records, make sure they are securely stored.
Share Information Sparingly – The more places your information is stored outside of your control, the more likely it is to be stolen. Medical providers will need your health insurance information, your Social Security number, and other personal information as part of your treatment – but it’s fair to ask how they keep your information safe.
Be skeptical of any “free” medical services or treatment solicitations. While some are legitimate, others are fronts to acquire your medical information in order to file fraudulent claims.
Review All Explanations of Benefits (EOBs) – Anytime you use insurance to pay for a medical visit, you’ll receive an EOB that summarizes the medical services you received and which ones are covered by your insurance plan. Make sure that any EOB you receive is for medical services that you actually received (and also that the services are accurately recorded).
Use Lifestyle Assistants Carefully – Do you have a Fitbit or a step-counting app on your phone? Are you a frequent user of health and wellness websites? How about a calorie tracker? All of these are fine, as long as you don’t provide personal information through these devices and websites – or post any related information on social media.
Destroy Old Information – Any sensitive information such as prescription labels/orders, health insurance forms and expired cards, old EOBs, and physician/health plan correspondence should be shredded before being discarded.
Beware of Scam E-mails – Health-related e-mails are an excellent vehicle for phishing scams. We’re used to medical- and insurance-related correspondence that we didn’t expect and don’t fully understand. However, you must be diligent to avoid scams. Never click on links without verifying the request separately with communication you initiate – and never call any verification phone numbers listed in the e-mail. Call your medical provider and/or insurance company to verify any request.
Review Your Credit Report – Check your credit report on a regular basis for any fraudulent medical bills – or any signs of fraud or incorrect information. You may be able to catch and correct any issues before your bank account or credit score suffer any major damage. You can check your credit score and read your credit report for free within minutes by joining MoneyTips.
You can’t prevent all potential breaches of your medical records, but you can take precautions to decrease the chances that your medical information will be fraudulently used. When identity theft is rampant, sometimes your best defense is to be a more difficult target than others.
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