Many people associate identity breaches with financial theft. But that’s only one of many types of risks that could arise due to your data reaching a criminal. There are countless other threats you could face when your personal identifiable information or PII is compromised. Medical identity theft is one such form.
Sometimes, a criminal could use your PII to receive medical treatments and medication. Or they could file a claim with your medical insurance provider. This is called medical identity theft. And it could typically leave you with multi-faceted and often long-lasting ramifications. Understanding medical identity theft and knowing how to prevent them could, therefore, go a long way to protect you from dreadful repercussions.
How can medical identity theft happen?
A criminal needs access to your personal information to commit medical identity theft. Today, this is not such a difficult feat. A security breach at your insurer, healthcare service provider, or even a credit bureau would be enough to leak your name, SSN, date of birth, medical records, health plan details, or other identifiable information. Hacked databases often go on sale on the dark web with bargain price tags for anyone interested to purchase. So, a criminal could infiltrate a network or simply purchase an already hacked database to commit medical fraud.
They could also use phishing attacks via emails or phone calls to extract personal information. Even physical theft of your social security card, insurance documents, or a medical record could provide useful information to a fraudster.
But it’s not just criminals sitting in a dark basement that could commit this type of crime. Even rogue healthcare providers could make false insurance claims without the knowledge of their patients.
So, what’s the risk?
The outcome of medical identity theft could vary depending on the severity of the incident. The most obvious is using up your medical plan until it reaches the maximum limit. As a result, you’ll no longer be able to file a claim for treatments you genuinely require. And if an unpaid bill reaches a debt collector, it could affect your credit score. This will impact your ability to obtain a loan or credit. And reversing it might not be so easy.
If the fraudster’s medical records get mixed with your own, then expect further complications. For example, it could provide a misleading picture of your health condition to healthcare providers, who could then prescribe wrong treatments. It could even affect your health plan. For example, you might be denied coverage in the event of a critical condition erroneously showing up on your records.
Essential steps to prevent medical identity theft
The repercussions of medical identity theft could be severe and diverse. And detangling yourself from its complex web of outcomes could cost you both time and money. Remaining vigilant and taking preventative measures to avoid them is, therefore, the best course of action.
Identifying telltale signs of medical identity theft can help you take quick action to mitigate its outcomes before things get out of hand.
- Review each Explanation of Benefits statement sent by the health insurance provider. Ensure you check the dates and treatments marked on the statement and check against your own records to verify their accuracy.
- Watch out for medical bills for treatments or medication you have not obtained.
- Regularly review your credit report for any discrepancies, such as an unfamiliar medical collection notice. Any unusual items could be a warning sign that someone else has access to your personal information.
- Request the health insurer for a report of benefits paid during the year. Review these against the records you’ve maintained.
Ramp up data security
Proactively protecting your personal information is the best preventative measure you can take to avoid becoming a victim of a medical scam.
- Without a valid reason, do not share your PII, whether in-person, over the phone, via email, or even on a website.
- If you need to disclose such information due to a justifiable reason, keep records of all communications. Ensure you understand how they plan on using your details and what measures they’ll take to protect your data.
- Take copies of all your medical and insurance records and keep them safely stored.
- Safely discard old medical and insurance-related documents, preferably using a shredder. No one should have access to them, even if they are outdated or invalid. These can include prescriptions, labels on medication, medical records, and insurance claims.
- Ensure the safety of your online activities. Use secure devices, network connections, browsers, and online accounts at all times.
- Keep yourself updated on various types of scams so you’re able to take preventative measures to avoid them.
Medical identity thefts have become a growing threat with repercussions of multiple nature. Fraudsters could use up your health plan and leave you with mounting debt. And when their medical records get added to yours, it can affect your treatment plans and not to mention your health insurance premium.
But criminals typically need access to your PII to launch medical scams. They might attempt to purchase your personal data on the dark web. If not, they can initiate a phishing attack, infiltrate your insurer’s databases, or hack into your devices. Even healthcare workers have access to patient records, which an ill-intent employee could sell to a criminal.
Evidently, there are countless ways a criminal could access your data. So, taking preventative measures to protect your personal information and staying alert for any warning signs of a threat is essential. If you suspect you’ve become a victim of medical identity theft, immediately inform your insurer, the police, and the Federal Trade Commission. Request for copies of your medical records from your healthcare provider to build up sufficient evidence. Also, place an extended fraud alert with the credit bureaus.
Remember, medical identity theft could lead to long-term consequences. Addressing them with due urgency before they escalate is essential for both your physical and financial health.