Medical identity theft is the fraudulent use of an individual’s health information to obtain access to obtain medical services or goods. Medical identity theft often results in erroneous entries in existing medical records, leading to inappropriate and potentially life-threatening decisions by medical staff. The wrong entries are difficult to fix after the fact, because victims have limited rights and recourses. The falsified information can plague victims’ medical and financial lives for years.
PwC report states, “The digitization of patient health information is inevitable, and so are the risks of compromising patient privacy.”
“Medical identity theft is a lucrative form of identity theft. A stolen Social Security number has an estimated street value of $1 per identity; the price of stolen medical identity information averages a much higher street value, at an average of $50 per identity,” wrote Jim McKay, Justice and Public Safety Editor in 2008. The average is now closer to $60.
You may be a victim of medical identity theft if:
- You get a bill for medical services you didn’t receive
- A debt collector contacts you about medical debt you don’t owe
- You order a copy of your credit report and see medical collection notices you don’t recognize
- You try to make a legitimate insurance claim and your health plan says you’ve reached your limit on benefits
- You are denied insurance because your medical records show a condition you don’t have.
- Verify a source before sharing information
- Safeguard your medical and health insurance information
- Treat your trash carefully
- Read the Explanation of Benefits (EOB) statement
- Order a copy of your credit reports
- Ask for a copy of your medical records
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission
- File a report with your local police
- Exercise your right under HIPAA to correct errors in your medical and billing records
- Place a fraud alert with credit bureaus
- Place a Security/Credit Freeze with credit bureaus
FTC: What to do
World Privacy Forum: The Medical Identity Theft Information Page
AMA Medical news: Medical identity theft a growing problem
Bloomberg Business Week: Diagnosis: Identity Theft “For $60, a thief can buy your health records.”