There are eight types of identity theft, including criminal, financial and medical. Medical identity theft could affect the healthcare you receive and, therefore, put your privacy and health at risk.
What is Medical Identity Theft?
Medical identity theft is when someone steals your health insurance number or personal information to receive healthcare, to get prescriptions, or to file a claim with your insurance. That person's health information can get blended with yours, which can affect your credit report, your records of insurance and payments, and the medical treatment you receive.
You can detect medical identity theft by thoroughly reading your insurance and medical statements. If you find incorrect information, contact your health plan immediately. You can get copies of your medical records and ask for corrections to your files.
How Does Medical Identity Theft Happen?
You can become the target of medical identity theft without realizing it. Don't be fooled by thieves posing as employees of a doctor's office, a health insurance company, or a pharmacy.
Some of the most common ways that medical identity theft happens include:
- Sharing insurance or medical information over the phone or by email with someone you have not initiated contact with. If the person calling is really with a legitimate business, then ask for the phone number where you can return their call. Then search that phone number online to see if the number is in fact connected to that company, and while you're at it, make sure that the company (if you aren't familiar with it) is a legitimate business that requires your personal information. For emails, make sure that the email domain name (everything after the @ symbol in the email address) matches the company's website.
- Providing your insurance health plan number to receive “free” health products and services. Nothing free will require you to divulge private information about your health insurance.
- Including your social security number on every form and to every company that requests it. If a form asks for your social security number, always ask the company or organization why they need it, how it will be used, what they will do to safeguard your information, and whether they share information. Be picky about whom you trust with this critical information.
- Disposing of bills, records, and prescription labels without first shredding them. Leaving your personal information in trash cans and recycling bins leaves you open to all kinds of identity theft.
- Sharing your personal information indiscriminately online. A secure website will begin with https (instead of just http), and that secure website will also show a lock icon on the browsing bar that displays the website's URL. Don't let a logo and professional design trick you into handing over your private information.
How to Report Medical Identity Theft?
Contact the Federal Trade Commission at IdentityTheft.gov if you find signs of medical identity theft. You can use the site to report any type of identity theft and get a recovery plan for how to recover from the identity theft.
Medical Identity Theft Statistics
Medical identity theft is growing in the United States, with more thefts being reported each year, though medical identity theft is not as common as other types of identity theft. The Federal Trade Commission found that 20,000 people self-reported that they were victims of medical identity theft between the years of 2003 and 2016. FTC researchers analyzed these complaints to find that the cases of medical identity theft had hotspots, or geographical locations where cases of medical identity theft were higher. Hotspots tend to occur in states with higher populations, such as Texas, California, New York, and Florida.
The statistics for medical identity theft don't provide a full picture of medical identity theft, since the consumer complaints used for the statistics are self-reported and many cases of identity theft go unnoticed.
How to Prevent Medical Identity Theft?
To prevent medical identity theft, you can turn to trusted brands in identity theft protection, such as Identity Guard, LifeLock, and IdentityForce.
Identity Guard tries to make identity theft impossible with their constant monitoring of every element of your identity. They have monitoring and alert tools that keep you informed about the current state of your privacy. Identity Guard does everything they can to help you prevent medical identity theft, but in the rare case that it does happen, they have a recovery team to help you recover from identity theft for every step of the way. You can get started with Identity Guard for as little as $8.99 per month.
LifeLock goes above and beyond most identity theft protection companies by monitoring for threats to your digital life. LifeLock with Norton detects threats related to your established financial accounts, new payday or other types of loans, new online accounts, unauthorized address changes through the U.S. Postal Service, and your personal information on the dark web. LifeLock and the digital security specialist Norton are part of the same company, so Norton also provides protection against computer-related threats that could leave you open to attempts at identity theft. The Norton side of LifeLock protects you against ransomware, viruses, spyware, and more. You can get started with identity theft protection from LifeLock for as little as $9.99 per month.
IdentityForce gives you the most advanced identity security, including protection for your privacy, identity, and credit security. IdentityForce continuously monitors your medical accounts and insurance for suspicious activity and alerts you if something seems wrong, giving you control over your privacy. They also offer a simple form for you to send your medical and insurance company that allows you to secure a payout report of your benefits. If you do become the target of identity theft, IdentityForce has a trained team to help you recover every dime that was stolen. The identity theft protection packages include a $1 million identity theft insurance with a special rider for medical identity theft. You can get started with identity theft protection from IdentityForce for $17.95 per month.