When people think of identity theft, they usually think of their personal credit being used to open new credit or loan accounts. But there is another type of identity theft that is growing- medical identity theft. When your wallet is stolen, thieves are just as likely to try to use your insurance card as they are to use your credit card. In some cases, medical identity theft can be more damaging and scarier than the run of the mill identity theft. Take the case of Deborah Ford.
Ms. Ford’s car was broken into and her purse was stolen. She took the normal precautions and canceled her credit cards and then went about getting a new driver’s license and insurance card. After that, she forgot about it. Two years later, she received a call from a bail bondsman that she was about to be arrested for going to local pharmacies to get more than 1,700 opioid prescriptions. She was arrested for the charges and processed. A judge later dismissed the charges because she was able to show the police report she filed after the theft of her purse.
The thief had altered her driver’s license and used that in combination with her insurance card to obtain the medication.
Medical identity theft is growing fast
The story above is just one of the many that you can find if you search Google for these types of cases. In fact, medical identity theft is growing rapidly in part due to the opioid crisis in the United States. All of our unique identity-related information is valuable but medical information has its own value. A thief could use it to receive expensive medical procedures or, as in the case above, get additional medications.
One threat for individuals is that the thief will seek treatment for diagnosis that the victim doesn’t have. Imagine going to the doctor to find out that you have an STD or drug dependency. This happened in one case in Utah. A mother of 4 nearly lost her children when her medical records showed drug addictions and other activities that made her seem unfit to be a mother. The main issue, her children were all grown and she wasn’t a drug addict. Her identity had been stolen and her medical records had been updated with the thief’s information. The thief had given birth and then she tested positive for illegal drugs so social workers feared for the children’s safety.
What are the ways your medical insurance can be used?
Family members using your insurance – family members stealing your medical identity is very common since they may have easier access to your insurance card. This can also take the form of sharing your own card with others to help them get service if they are uninsured. This is also illegal.
Receiving treatment – A thief will use your documents to receive free treatment from healthcare facilities
Purchasing medications – As what happened to Ms. Ford above, a thief uses your identity to obtain prescriptions of controlled substances.
Protect yourself from medical identity theft
With credit relate identity theft, its fairly easy to detect by getting a copy of your credit report. However, this isn’t an option for Americans as it related to medical records. While a credit report can’t prevent this form of identity theft, it can still help. You would be able to see any unpaid medical bills or if any judgments had been filed against you from healthcare facilities. So the first step is to check your credit report and make sure that is clean.
The next step is to check all EOBs you receive to make sure that you don’t notice any treatments that you didn’t actually have performed. If you do notice this, contact your insurance company immediately.
If you find anything incorrect on your medical records, be sure to get them corrected. Let your physician know that the items are incorrect and ask them to remove or follow up on them.
If you are the victim of the theft of your belongings such as your credit cards, driver’s license, and insurance card, file a police report. This will help you to untangle the damage that the thief may do.
The best defense against all forms of identity theft is vigilance. Keep control of your identity cards and watch over your credit and medical histories. Fixing the issues that can happen can we very expensive and time-consuming to resolve. Following these steps should help you protect yourself from medical identity theft.
Part of the items in this post was found at Consumer Reports, here.