by – Sheri de Grom
Few of us think about having our medical identity stolen. The crime of medical identity theft has been happening for years and is rampant today. Most of us are unaware that it’s occurred until something significant happens in our own world of health or our credit rating has crashed.
Medical identity theft is the fraudulent use of another person’s medical identity in order to obtain medical services and medications or to bill a third-party payer such as an insurance company or Medicare and then keep the payment for personal use.
The theft of your medical identity also reveals your social security number, health system ID, driver’s license number, health insurance and other personal information plus critical details a thief can use in multiple ways.
The crime can have long-lasting and dangerous effects, both on your health and your finances. The thief may obtain health services in your name or bill fraudulently for services that, although you never received them, could max out your annual or lifetime insurance limits.
Whether the thief is actually receiving medical treatment or just billing for fictitious treatments in your name, incorrect information—about blood type, diagnoses, or drug allergies, for instance—may infiltrate your medical records as a result.
Collection letters for overdue accounts for an unfamiliar doctor visit or procedure is the most common clue to victims of this crime.
Be vigilant about handling your medical information. Don’t let explanation-of-benefit statements from your insurer sit in a pile of unopened mail. Review them like you would a bank statement or auto repair bill. If you see an unfamiliar procedure, doctor’s name, or service date, call to inquire.
The media tells us when a large number of social security numbers are stolen or when our credit and debit cards are in jeopardy.
Your medical identity will be with you for a lifetime. It is one of your most important assets. Don’t allow someone to steal it from you.