Have you ever heard of medical identity theft? It’s a growing problem in the United States, and it can have devastating consequences.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, medical identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information – like your name, Social Security number, or health insurance account number – to get medical care, buy prescription drugs, or commit other crimes.
That’s why it’s important to take steps to protect your medical identity. Here are some tips:
- Check your medical records regularly– Make sure you review your medical bills and Explanation of Benefits statements from your health insurance company to make sure that all the charges are for services you actually received.
- Guard your personal information– Be careful about who you give your personal information, and don’t carry your Social Security card or other sensitive medical information in your wallet or purse.
- Be alert for signs that your information has been stolen– Watch out for unexpected bills or calls from collection agencies. And if you are denied health insurance because of information in your medical records that you know is inaccurate, that could be a sign that someone has stolen your identity.
If you think you may have been a victim of medical identity theft, take action immediately. Contact your healthcare providers and your health insurance company. Then, file a report with the Federal Trade Commission and the police. And be sure to put a fraud alert on your credit reports.
What are the consequences of medical identity theft?
Medical identity theft can have serious consequences. Here are just a few examples:
- You could end up with tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills for procedures you never received.
A man from Colorado received a $40,000 medical bill for a surgery he never had. When your medical identity is stolen, you may also be denied insurance coverage in the future.
- You could be arrested for a crime you didn’t commit.
When someone uses your identity to commit a crime, you could be the one who ends up getting arrested. That’s what happened to a woman in Florida whose identity was stolen by a criminal. She was arrested and spent two days in jail before she was able to prove her innocence.
- Your health could be at risk.
If someone uses your identity to get prescription drugs, they could end up taking medication that is dangerous for them. That could lead to serious health problems – or even death.
What to do if you think your medical identity has been stolen
If you think your medical identity has been stolen, there are several steps you should take right away.
- Contact your healthcare providers and your health insurance company– Let them know that someone may have stolen your identity and ask them to flag your account. If possible, get copies of your medical records to make sure that no one has added any false information.
- File a report with the Federal Trade Commission– The FTC keeps a database of identity theft cases that can help law enforcement investigate crimes. You can file a report online or by calling 1-877-438-4338.
- File a police report– This will give you a formal record of the crime, which can be helpful if you need to provide proof to creditors or other businesses. You may be able to file your report online or over the phone.
- Put a fraud alert on your credit reports– This will make it more difficult for someone to open new accounts in your name. You can do this by contacting one of the three major credit reporting agencies – Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax.
You can also take steps to protect your medical identity in the future. For example, you can ask your healthcare providers to use extra security measures when verifying your identity, such as asking for a second form of ID or using a biometric identifier like a fingerprint. And you can check your credit report regularly for signs that your information has been used fraudulently.
If you think your medical identity has been stolen, don’t wait to take action. The sooner you do something, the less damage the thief will be able to do.