Protecting Yourself Against Medical Identity Theft

Social Security Card --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Many consumers take steps every day to protect their identity and financial information, but what about probably one of the most sinister forms of identity theft, medical id theft?  Your BBB® wants to provide information today to help consumers spot the signs of medical identity theft and arm them with some tools to prevent it.

What exactly is medical identity theft?

It is the theft of goods, services or insurance benefits relating to health care, medications and medical supplies.

How does it happen?

Thieves have discovered that with just the right information, they can charge medical services or supplies to other people or their insurance providers.  To gain the information needed, they may call unsuspecting consumers acting like they are representing their insurance provider. They may say they are looking to update information, beneficiaries, or looking to “verify” recent charges.

While on the phone, they may ask for medical or personal information and even describe the look of the card from which they want information. Their hope is to gain consumer confidence and ultimately receive personal information.

Another scenario completely bypassing the consumer might involve a thief offering to purchase identity and health information from medical personnel.

For these reasons and more, a growing number of health providers are starting to ask for a picture ID or are keeping a current photo on file of their patients.  Also, consider this: perpetrators may be hackers located abroad, or they may even be employees at medical facilities according to the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.

The nastiest part of medical id theft is that someone may seek medical care using your identity, and then you wind up having their medical information on your medical record.  Of course, this also means that your insurance is being billed for those services for which you were never treated.

What can you do?

  • Review all medical bills, insurance explanations of benefits and keep an eye on your medical records.
  • Ask your doctor or insurance provider for an annual statement of all services rendered.
  • Never give out personal information to someone you don’t know and verify, by calling the provider yourself, any calls requesting identity or medical information.
  • Check your credit report annually. You can receive one free copy annually from each of the 3 major credit reporting agencies at annualcreditreport.com.
  • If you suspect medical identity theft, there is a great deal of information and the steps you can take at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0171-medical-identity-theft or you can give the FTC a call at 1-877-382-4357.

Contact your BBB for more information on any business or service you don’t recognize on your bill. We can be reached at bbb.org/evansville or 812-473-0202 where you can Start With Trust®.

About Tom 153 Articles
Tom is Vice President for the Tri-State Better Business Bureau. In addition to answering the needs of our accredited businesses, Tom can be seen on WEVV providing tips for businesses and consumers. He also works closely with other local media outlets to keep our community informed of marketplace issues affecting our area.

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