New things lead to newer problems. More cars, more accidents will be there. Bring in Facebook, and bring in more relationship problems. Alternatively, enable identity information storage, and enable someone to use the benefits in your name.
The incident at Target a year back, where personal credit card information of more than 70 million customers were stolen, it was a wake-up call for businesses and individuals.
However, today we are not talking only about protecting credit card information. Instead, it is important to protect your identity too. If you or your organization is not too careful, it may not be long before a fraudster can catch you, you might stumble see the liabilities on you later. An important area here is the issue of medical identity theft.
What is Medical Identity Theft (MIT)?
It is when someone uses your medical records and information unlawfully. Medical identity theft includes stealing all your personal information including your name, Social Security Number and health insurance ID, after which the thief procures medical care, buys drugs, medical equipment or even submits specific claims.
Let us think of a scenario – one that has happened to a few already. A baby is born to a drug-addicted mother who gets access to your medical information. The health insurance information means that the mother can just pretend as ‘you’ – so that for all purposes, you are listed as the mother of that baby. The concept in itself is frightening, and many of us have faced this nightmare.
Imagine how your family would react if they came to know about the incident – it can take a while and a good amount of legal hardship before being proved innocent. In fact, data breaches are becoming more common with many healthcare companies falling prey. There is a problem when it comes to data breaches – the company storing the information has to understand that a breach may be occurred.
At times, this can take quite a few months and happens only when the hackers are continuously indulging in the practice. Anthem Inc. for instance, one of the nations’ largest health insurance companies suffered a setback when information of 80 million customers and employees were stolen.
The repercussions of a medical identity theft are often worse than credit card frauds. The possibilities are many. What could happen if someone use your medical information and make law enforcement agencies track you down?
Even if you do manage to prove your innocence later on, your health insurance becomes mixed with the thief’s, leading to further complications. In addition, it is more common than you would think – 2013 saw 1.84 million Americans being on the receiving end, with victims losing out as much as $22 k on an average. Worse, in most cases victims cough up the amount, as litigation costs can be much higher and time consuming. In addition, the cost is not the only thing you need to be worried about – you can be denied life insurances, disability insurance and more if the insurance company found that there is false information in health records caused by the theft.
So, how can you prevent medical identity theft?
It has seen that insiders and relatives, or someone who is close to the victim most often does the identity theft. A survey by Medical Identity Fraud Alliance found that nearly 6 out of 10 people had their identity stolen by someone they knew. This means that you can protect yourself more often than not.
True, it is difficult to protect yourself if you have been affected with a data breach but you can always take care of:
- Protect your Social Security Number.
- Medical insurance card.
- Shred medical bills, insurance statements and everything that has your information in it.
- Protect your Medicare ID properly and do not let anyone borrow or use it.
- Do not sell your Medicare number to anyone – fraudsters may offer you free groceries, services or something else in exchange for your Medicare number. This includes not giving your medical information and Medicare ID to anyone who pretends to be from Medicare or Social Security over the phone.
Often, you may not realize that your medical information is compromised. This is why you would want to read the Explanation of Benefits properly; that helps you understand all the claims. If you come across a claim that seems unfamiliar, call your insurance company immediately.
Some other actions that can help you ensure that your medical information is not compromised are below.
- Check accuracy of your medical records including blood type and medical conditions periodically. Check if there is any record has changed.
- Correct false information immediately.
- Sign up for an online account with your insurance company, drug provider, and other medical providers, even if you are not keen on using their online services. This ensures that thieves cannot sign up using your name.
- Keep a watch over your credit report and financial statements regularly.
Responding to a MIT incident
In the event that you do found your medical information compromised, you must know which steps to be taken. The first step is to know whether someone else has claimed the policy for sure. If the claim looks unfamiliar, contact the health care provider to know more – sometimes, you may have forgotten about a claim. If you are not satisfied, report the charges to Medicare. If there is a Medicare fraud, you will need to contact the Department of Health & Human Services Office of Inspector General.
If you are sure that someone else is using your personal information, it is a good idea to contact the Federal Trade Commission. Remember, early actions can save you in trouble. While data breaches might mean that you do not have any control over who has your personal information, timely action can prevent any unpleasant incident.