Medical Identity Theft on the Rise – Statistics

Funny thing about thieves, they always find something to steal. If you didn’t already have enough things to safeguard, add your medical identity to the list. According to a recent Ponemon Institute study, 5.8% of American adults have been a victim of medical identity theft – a crime in which the thief uses your identity to get access to medical services and goods. They may use your name or insurance information to get treatment and equipment.

Medical identity has a significantly higher average cost per victim than other types of identity theft. The average victim deals with more than $20,000 in costs associated with the crime. Victims may have to pay out-of-pocket costs to have their health insurance restored.

Statistics on medical identity theft

It could take longer to detect medical identity theft than other types of fraud and identity theft. The study shows that 29% of victims don’t find out about medical ID theft until a year later. It takes two or more years for another 21% to learn about the theft.

Dealing with medical ID theft doesn’t seem to be any easier – 75% found it difficult to resolve the issues, while 25% didn’t have any consequences at all.

How to detect medical identity theft

As with other types of identity theft, early detection is key to clearing your name and eliminating your financial responsibility for the crime. According to the Federal Trade Commission, you might have been a victim of medical identity theft if:

  • You receive a bill (either from a doctor or debt collector) for medical services you didn’t receive.
  • Your credit report contains medical collections you don’t recognize.
  • Your insurance claim is denied for reaching your limit on benefits.
  • Your application for insurance is denied because of a condition you don’t have.

Don’t wait for the symptoms of medical ID theft to show up. Actively monitor your medical history to learn about theft sooner. Read through your statement of benefits from your insurance company. Most insurers send this statement monthly or quarterly. Don’t toss it in the trash without reading it to make sure the services listed are services you actually received. Request a statement of benefits (sometimes called an explanation of benefits or EOB) if your insurer doesn’t send one automatically. You may be able to get this statement online or through the mail.

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Protecting your medical ID

There’s nothing you can do to remove 100% of your medical ID theft risk. You can, however, take steps to keep your ID safe and reduce the risk that you’ll become a victim.

  • Keep your medical records in a safe place like a file cabinet or safe. Be cautious about storing these documents on your computer because they can be accessed if your computer is ever lost, stolen, or given away. (Savvy thieves can even access documents on hard drives that have been “erased.”)
  • Be cautious about sharing your Social Security number and insurance number over the internet or on the phone. Only share this information with companies you know and trust. Never give out personal information in an email.
  • Shred any documents that include your personal or medical information, including billing notices, old insurance cards, labels on prescription bottles, and health insurance forms.

Your health could be at risk

There may be worse consequences than the financial implications of medical ID theft; you could receive improper treatment because your medical records contain inaccurate information like the wrong blood type, test results that don’t belong to you, treatment you never received, or diagnosis of an illness you don’t have.

If you’ve been a victim of medical identity theft, report it to your local police department and the Federal Trade Commission. You should place either a fraud alert or security freeze on your credit report to warn future businesses that you’ve been victimized. Finally, work with your insurance company and medical providers to clear your name of the charges.

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