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The Hefty Cost of Having Your Medical Identity Stolen

Medical identity theft is on the rise, causing deep-seated repercussions for victims.

What happens when your medical identity is stolen? Most Americans don’t realize the devastating ripple effect that can follow medical identity theft. According to the World Privacy Forum, it’s the least researched of all forms of identity theft, yet the hardest to fix.

And it’s on the rise. Thieves are becoming more aggressive. Robocall scam calls are growing, with a staggering 58.5 billion robocalls logged in 2019, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. Unfortunately, a mere 27 percent of healthcare security executives claim to have the ability to properly protect their patients’ records.

So what all is involved in having your medical identity stolen?

You’ll spend astronomical amounts of time finding and correcting problems

It takes an average of three months for victims to discover their medical identity has been stolen, according to a study performed by the Ponemon Institute. Victims spend an average of 200 hours working to restore their data.

Medical identity theft is much different than other forms of identity theft. If your credit card is stolen, for instance, the Fair Credit Billing Act protects you from any charges over $50. But unlike regular identity theft, there aren’t measures in place to protect medical identity theft victims. You certainly can’t just cancel your credit cards and call it a day. The onus typically falls on the victim to clear up the mess, causing immeasurable stress, time, and expense.

It’s difficult to take action

According to the World Privacy Forum, medical identity theft is the most difficult to fix after the fact because victims have limited rights and recourse.

The fallout of medical identity theft can be overwhelming. But even worse, victims can have a great deal of trouble taking back their damaged lives.  Recovery for victims of medical identity may be difficult because of the lack of enforceable rights, and because of the dispersed and often hidden nature of medical records. This type of theft often leaves its victims without substantive options or clear pathways to follow for help. It can prove difficult to fix errors in your medical files, often taking months to correct. 

You might wind up paying large bills you don’t owe

It’s estimated Medical ID theft victims spend an average of $13,500 paying off the effects of fraudulent medical bills, according to a Ponemon survey.

One typical problem victims of medical identity theft face is the financial cost. And it isn’t small. From the time and effort spent repairing credit to correcting medical records, victims can pay substantial sums out of pocket. Many victims just figure the pain of proving their innocence isn’t worth it, and fork over for bills they don’t owe in resignation and to avoid having it impact their credit standing

Risks to your health

20% of medical identity theft victims report receiving the wrong medical treatment or delays in necessary care according to Ann Patterson of the Medical Identity Fraud Alliance (MIFA).

If a criminal corrupts your medical information, their medical information may become intertwined in yours. The result? You could be denied services when their medical records contraindicate a procedure or medication you need. 

Your coverage may max out

You may suddenly face a denial of insurance coverage because you’ve reached your benefit limit.

This is how it works: Someone steals your medical identity and racks up numerous medical bills without your knowledge until your coverage reaches its max. Suddenly, and unexpectedly, you’re asked to pay out of pocket for your next office visit or procedure.   

Your credit could be impacted

On top of all the negative implications to your health history and care, you could also run into a whole slew of issues if delinquent bills suddenly show up on your credit report. Dings on your credit could affect your ability to get approved for home and auto loans, or even get a new job.

And the rabbit trail can get even longer if your fraudulent bad debt is sold to another debt collector. New debt collection calls may start, which means yet another company needs to be tracked down to right the wrongs.

Damage to your reputation

Among victims studied by Ponemon, 3% lost their jobs and 19% lost a chance at potential jobs as a result of medical identity theft.

If someone is doctor hopping, or illegally filling and abusing prescription drugs in your name, you could wind up on the receiving end of criminal charges. Legal trouble can be hard to disprove and often involves years in courtroom hearings. This could impact your ability to pass background screenings for jobs, housing, or insurance decisions.

When your integrity is called into question, it’s hard to undo the fallout.

The best bet? Protect your medical identity with these simple steps,  and you can learn more through HealthLock.

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