Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Medical Identity Theft

Eight or nine years ago, I used to pooh-pooh identity theft. It was very prevalent and the media tended to hype the story. They tended to call every instance of credit card fraud an act of identity theft.

I don’t pooh-pooh it anymore. It is a serious problem and can affect almost anyone. While the cases of pure credit card theft still occur, a lot of cases of identities being taken over and used for nefarious purposes are definitely increasing. One such manner is medical identity theft. The World Privacy Forum labels medical identity theft as occurring when someone uses a person's name and sometimes other parts of their identity -- such as insurance information -- without the person's knowledge or consent to obtain medical services or goods, or uses the person’s identity information to make false claims for medical services or goods.

The Federal Trade Commission estimates that approximately 3,000 – 5,000 cases occur each year. Where this is especially distributing is that the people who have their identities stolen are most often seriously ill and in no place to fight back.

The World Privacy Forum states that is very important to find out about medical identity theft, because fraudsters who use your identity for medical care or services can introduce changes to your medical record that can be nearly impossible to undo. These changes can range from small things that do not pose a risk to you to substantial erroneous information that can pose a medical risk to you.

Discovering medical identity theft is not like discovering financial identity theft: it can be harder to detect medical identity theft, and sometimes you need to look in different places. For example, some people find out about medical identity theft when a debt collector sends a letter or calls. But others only find out after an insurance investigator alerts them to the problem, or after they notice errors in their medical file, or after they get a strange bill for medical services they did not receive.

Here are links to the World Privacy’s Forum page on how to prevent and fight back on medical identity Theft.

Closely monitor any "Explanation of Benefits" sent by an public or private health insurer
Pro-actively request a listing of benefits from your health insurers
Request a copy of current medical files from each health care provider
File a police report
Correct erroneous and false information in your file
Keep an eye on your credit report
Request an accounting of disclosures

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