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Blog Author: Terri Pattio
I believe that everyone today is aware of identity theft. It is unfortunate, but many people assume that since they do not use credit or debit cards, they are safe from ID theft. There are myriad ways that thieves can gain access to your checking or savings account records and your social security number.
One of the more recent areas where thieves are targeting identities is in medical records. Let’s say you order a copy of your credit file. When it arrives, you are surprised to discover that there are collection notices against you for several emergency hospital visits, with thousands of dollars unpaid. Once you begin investigating this entry in your credit report, you find the report states that you were involved in a serious car accident and had your leg amputated after you were air lifted to a hospital for treatment.
Since you have both your legs, and you have not been involved in a traffic accident or been admitted to a hospital, you assume it was a simple error on your report. This is a typical and all-too-common example of medical identity theft. You may make the discovery from that credit report, or a hospital may start sending you bills for treatment you never had. You may be contacted by the hospital or police who tell you that they believe you are a potential victim of a fraud they are investigation.
Medical records are exposed to theft via the internet in ever increasing numbers; therefore, medical fraud is quite simple for a thief to commit. The fraud may go undetected for months or even years. More medical records are also being digitalized and shared with health care providers, health insurance companies and consumers, making them more vulnerable to theft. How about your medical chart? Are the charts in the receptionist’s office within easy reach of anyone?
It’s not just about the health insurance and health service options, but it’s also about ensuring patient medical records are accurate and shared only with authorized people, and that health services and charges are applied to the rightful account owner.
Prescribing the wrong medication to a patient based on fraudulent medical records can cause death in which case the impact of medical identity theft is irreversible. How can doctors and hospitals reconcile a patient’s past and recorded information with the identity thief’s medical information acquired with a recent blood analysis even after a case of medical identity theft is detected? As you can see, the impact of the health identity theft is huge to the victim’s life, privacy and financial losses.
In general, consumers have more protection against credit identity theft than medical identity fraud. If a consumer discovers credit identity theft promptly after it is committed, they can notify their banks, credit card companies, the FCC and the police. The victims seldom are responsible to pay more than $50 no matter how much was actually stolen.
With medical identity theft, the identity theft victim whose social security number appears on the record is responsible for paying the fraud charges. Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Medical privacy laws in place to protect consumers, there is only limited protection against medical fraud. Unfortunately, HIPAA also equally protects the identity thief when the personal information of both the thief and the victim are combined. When the thief receives medical care using your name and medical records, your records are then updated with the thief’s medical information. So, not only can this commingling be detrimental to your life during your future doctor visits, you also may be prohibited from separating your records from those of the thief, because the thief is also protected by HIPAA.
Medical identity theft is more difficult to track, because only a name and social security is necessary to receive medical care in most cases. It is, therefore, critical for you to monitor your credit report. If you detect possible medical identity fraud, immediately contact your health insurance company, the health service provider and the credit reporting agencies. In addition, file a police report to document your case, and inform all parties that you are a victim of identity theft.
With all this information, I hope all readers can now recognize the importance of having an Identity Theft Protection Plan in place to monitor your records for you. They will detect fraudulent activity before you do.
Do you still believe having no credit or debit cards protects you from ID Theft? I personally recommend that you join the LifeLock® Identity Theft Protection Plan through Xpress Healthcare® for two reasons:
1) LifeLock® has years of proven excellent service, and it provides the best monitoring services; and
2) Joining LifeLock® through Xpress Healthcare® costs you less ($20 per month, per FAMILY), and along with LifeLock® services, at no extra charge, you will also receive a Roadside Assistance program, discounted pet care services and products and discounted legal services (9 of the most common services are free!)
3) To join LifeLock® through Xpress Healthcare, visit Lifestyle Select Discounts Whether you join LifeLock® through Xpress Healthcare® or join another ID Theft Protection company, don’t wait! Get the protection you need today!