Identity theft affects millions of Americans every year, causing financial ruin and damaging credit histories that can take months or years to repair. Unfortunately, a specific type of identity theft is on the rise: medical identity theft. But, what is medical identity theft, and how does it differ from a classic case of identity theft?
Medical identity theft occurs when someone steals your personal information in order to obtain medical care, buy drugs or submit fake billings to Medicare in your name, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Unlike financial identity theft—which occurs when someone illegally uses your personal financial information to empty your bank account or rack up charges on credit cards taken out in your name—medical identity theft can have other serious consequences and is more difficult to clear up. Any type of treatment, diagnosis or surgery that occurs with a stolen identity could become a part of your medical record. This could affect your access to medical care, insurance benefits and the acquired debts could end up on your credit report.
For someone to commit medical identity theft, your Social Security number isn’t necessarily needed as your name, birthday and address could be enough. According to the private cybersecurity research firm, Ponemon Institute, an estimated 2.3 million cases of medical identity theft were identified in 2014, a 22 percent increase from 2013.
Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission offer the following advice to help prevent your medical information from falling into the wrong hands:
Some of these steps may seem excessive now but just ask someone who has had their identity stolen, especially their medical identity, and they will agree that these steps would have been much easier than fighting to regain your good name.
For more trustworthy consumer tips, visit bbb.org.
Kelvin Collins is President/CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving the Fall Line Corridor, serving 83 counties in East Alabama, West Georgia, Southwest Georgia, Central Georgia, East Georgia and Western South Carolina. This tips column is provided through the local BBB and the Council of Better Business Bureaus. The Better Business Bureau sets standards for ethical business behavior, monitors compliance and helps consumers identify trustworthy businesses. Questions or complaints about a specific company or charity should be referred directly to the BBB at Phone: 1-800-763-4222, Web site: www.bbb.org or E-mail:email@example.com