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What is Medical Identity Theft? 7 Tips to Protect Yourself Now

Learn about medical identity theft and how to protect your records, health, and finances

You go to the doctor, you get treatment, you come home, and life continues. But what if all the while, someone else is using your private health care information fraudulently?

We’ve all heard of victims of identity theft. But another lesser known type of theft is medical identity theft.

According to an Accenture survey, one in four Americans has had their medical data breached, with half of those resulting in medical ID theft.

Medical identity theft is one of the most serious of all identity crimes, and it can often take months or years to discover that your identity has been compromised.  Here’s the truth behind medical identity theft, with 7 steps you can take now to safeguard yourself.

Medical Identity Theft Explained

What is medical identity theft? Medical identity theft occurs when someone fraudulently uses your personal information to receive medical care, services, or prescription drugs. Telltale signs that your medical identity may be compromised include:

  • a bill for medical services you didn’t receive
  • a call from a debt collector about a medical debt you don’t owe
  • medical collection notices on your credit report that you don’t recognize
  • a notice from your health plan saying you reached your benefit limit
  • a denial of insurance because your medical records show a condition you don’t have

If the imposter’s health information is mixed with yours, your treatment, insurance payment records, and credit report can be affected. And the implications can be even farther reaching. Medical ID theft victims can suffer job loss, denial of medical services, crippling long-term debt, and even criminal charges.

The sad part is, most victims of medical identity theft have no idea their information is being used until the damage is already done. Damage that can take months to recover.

Tips to Protect Yourself Now

1.     Track your own medical history

Jot down dates you visit doctors and receive medical services in your calendar or planner. Be proactive and keep record of your diagnoses and treatment plans. It’ll do wonders should you have to call claims into question down the road.

2.     Open every EOB and look for health services you didn’t receive

It’s easy to push that Explanation of Benefits (EOB) down to the bottom of the mail pile, but instead take the time to review each detail. Stay informed of your health care claims and be sure you truly received services billed to your insurance. Check provider names and dates of service closely and make sure they line up with when you were in the office or lab.

3.     Scrutinize every medical bill for errors

When you receive bills from doctors, imaging centers, hospitals, and other providers, cross reference the line items with your own records. Don’t get lost in the medical jargon. If you don’t understand a procedure code, call your doctor or insurance company and ask.  You may be on the phone awhile, but it’s worth the time.

4.     Protect your cards and policy information

How closely do you protect your debit card and pin number? Treat your health insurance information with the same care. Misplaced your card? Report it immediately and ask for a new ID number and insurance card, just as you would a debit card. Before you provide sensitive personal medical information online, review the website Privacy Policy and look for the lock icon on the browser’s URL that begins “https:” the “s” is for secure. Don’t give out your information to anyone who doesn’t need it, including family members who are not on your policy. A shocking half of all medical identity theft occurs among family members.

5.     Know what’s going on with your credit

Routinely check your credit report. There are a number of services that allow you to check your credit report as often as you want at no charge. Watch for new and unwarranted collections. Act quickly when something doesn’t look right. If you suspect fraud, get with your insurance provider to report it. The sooner you begin to fight inaccuracies, the greater chance you have of minimizing damage.

6.     Perform an audit

Haven’t looked at your medical bills in awhile? Go to your insurance company’s website and print out your family’s claims. Compare the information with medical bills from providers and payments you’ve made out of pocket. If something doesn’t look right or you don’t recognize it, question it with your healthcare provider or insurance carrier. 

7.     Talk to your healthcare provider

Ask your providers how they are safeguarding your information. Chances are If you see medical records screens up and people walking away without locking them, it’s a clue that they don’t take privacy seriously.

If you do discover that your medical identity has been compromised, here’s a resource that can help you with a recovery plan. To help detect and prevent Medical Identity Theft before it happens, sign up for a free HealthLock account today.

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