How to protect yourself against medical identity theft

Medical identity theft - or the use of a person's identifying information to obtain medical treatments, services or goods - is a growing concern in the United States. In 2018 alone, more than a quarter of all reported identity theft cases were related to medical and insurance identity fraud.

Medical identity theft has the potential to be even more damaging than traditional identity theft. Thieves can use your sensitive information to rack up tens of thousands of dollars in costly medical services and damages. Fortunately, you can take steps to ensure you do not put your data at risk of falling into the wrong hands.

Review your medical records regularly

Just as you should regularly monitor your credit reports for fraudulent activities and errors, you should do the same with your medical and insurance statements. Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, it's your right to request copies of your information. Review your Explanation of Benefits (EOB) or statement summaries carefully to ensure they align with your records and payments.

Report any errors

If you notice any inconsistencies or suspicious activity in your records, be sure to contact your health insurer as soon as you can and ask to speak with the fraud department. As a precaution, you may wish to request a new health insurance account and ID card to avoid any further fraudulent actions. You'll also want to file an official identity theft report with the Federal Trades Commission.

Ask why they need your personal information

Medical identity thieves can claim to work for insurance companies, doctor's offices or pharmacies in order to trick you into revealing your sensitive information. Unless you initiate contact and know whom you are speaking with, never share your medical or insurance information over phone or email.

When asked to provide information such as your social security number, insurance account number or details regarding your health, always ask why this information is needed and how it will be safeguarded. Also, make sure you read a website's privacy policy when sharing sensitive information online.

Medical identity theft can be a devastating and costly dilemma for victims to sort out. By taking these extra precautions, you can help ensure your private medical information remains secure.

 

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