A recent study showed that the number of cases involved with medical identity theft have gone up more than 21% in the year prior to the release of the report. While identity theft in general has been on the rise for some time, these specific figures and their relation to the medical industry could be seen as shocking. What is medical identity fraud, and how does it differ from traditional identity theft? We’re going to take a look, along with how you can protect yourself.
What is medical identity theft?
The specifics of medical identity theft vary from case to case, but they obviously pertain in some way to your medical care, insurance or provisions. Examples of this specific type of fraud can include someone using your insurance for specialist care or to see a doctor, using your identity to obtain subscriptions for drugs they are not entitled, attempting to buy expensive medical equipment in your name or even make a false claim for compensation.
Medical identity theft is not just a financial problem, either. While someone using your identity for expensive goods could end up costly, it could also confuse your medical history. If someone visits a doctor pretending to be you, new information could be added to your medical history that obviously has nothing to do with you – this could be a problem when you really do visit the doctor as your files won’t be accurate and could lead to a misdiagnosis or mistake in care.
Medical identity theft is also unique because unlike some other types of similar fraud, you don’t need someone’s social security number to commit it. Because of the nature of some medical care, hospitals who are in a rush to provide treatment might not spot the fraud until much later.
How can you protect against it?
Everyone is entitled to a copy of their own medical billing records under HIPAA rules. It’s important to keep a copy and make sure you’re aware of how much you’re spending on average. Many people simply ignore such bulling data and are therefore unaware if there are any changes. This can be the first way to spot if you’re being overcharged or even defrauded.
Check your EOB (Explanation of Benefits) statement regularly to see if there have been any changes or if any provisions of care you haven’t received are listed. Be aware of your medical records and make sure you know if something is listed that has nothing to do with you.
Some medical providers might resist giving you your files, but you have a right to access them. More tips for preventing medical fraud can be found here.
As with all types of identity theft, there are some other simple measures you can take. Things like protecting passwords might not be as relevant here – but it’s still something you should be aware of. Some consumers choose to rely on identity theft protection services for an extra level of protection. Make sure you check all your mail regularly so you can spot any irregularities. You should also consider shredding your mail and other important documents as some fraudsters still rely on rummaging through trash.
While medical fraud is on the rise, if you know what you’re looking for – you should be more protected than most.
About the author
Peter Ellington has years of experience in the web security and fraud industry. He knows how important protecting your identity can be – that’s why he recommends identity theft protection.