Medical identity theft
Thieves are hunting down your medical ID. They’re after your health-insurance number, Social Security number and other sensitive personal information. Scammers take over your medical ID. They line their pockets with false claims against your health policy.
Your medical information can be stolen anytime in our wired world. It happens almost every day. Malware, hacks, phishing, smishing, vishing, spoofs and other digital tactics are doubling your danger. Defend your medical identity every way you can.
Illegal and bogus treatment. Medical ID thieves bill your health plan for fake or inflated treatment claims. They can be doctors and other medical staff. Organized theft rings also steal your information — they sell it to crime rings on the Dark Web.
Buy addictive drugs. Medical staff steal painkillers and other prescription drugs in your name — to feed their addictions or sell for big profits. Pharmacists bill your health policy for narcotics. Nurses call in prescriptions using a patient’s name, but pick it up themselves.
Steal free treatment. People receive free medical treatment if they’re uninsured … courtesy of your health policy. Often they’re trusted friends or relatives; they took your information when you weren’t looking. They pretend they’re you at a hospital or clinic. So you’re billed for their surgery.
Credit ruined. Thieves disappear without paying medical bills charged to you. Your credit can be wrecked. Regaining your good credit rating can take months or years. You could be hounded by bill collectors, turned down for loans or mortgages, or pay higher lending costs.
Health coverage lost. Bogus claims can max out your health policy. You’ll have no coverage when you need expensive surgery. Your premiums also can rise.
Records inaccurate. Medical ID theft can threaten your health or life. A thief’s treatment history can end up on your medical records. This could be your wrong blood type, or medicine to which you’re allergic.
Legal troubles. True story: A pregnant woman stole the medical ID of a mother. The woman delivered a baby who tested positive for illegal drugs. Social workers tried to take away the real mother’s four children. They falsely thought she was the addict.
Detect and deter
Check your EOBs. Review the explanation of benefits form your insurer sends. If you see treatments you never received, tell your insurer right away.
Defend your credit. Review your credit reports with Equifax, Experian and TransUnion at least twice a year. Was your credit damaged by unpaid medical bills? Place a fraud alert and credit freeze.
File a police report. Filing a police report notifies law enforcement that your medical identity was stolen. Send the report to your insurer, medical providers and the three credit bureaus.
Correct medical records. If you suspect an ID theft, obtain your records from your doctor, hospital, pharmacy or laboratory. Have errors corrected, and appeal if you’re refused.
Avoid wi-fi. Don’t log into health accounts on public wi-fi — or access or send health info on public networks. Thieves troll coffee shops and other public wifi sites.
Careful of email. Never send sensitive medical info to your health provider via email — it’s not secure. Use the provider’s secure portal — and shred outdated medical info.
Stay private on social. Avoid talking about your medical conditions on social media. Medical thieves troll social-media accounts to compile a digital identity of your health. This helps thieves make realistic claims against your health policy.
Careful when email, texting. Never email or text sensitive medical info to your medical provider. They aren’t secure. Only use a secure medical portal.
Gone phishing. Unexpected emails from your medical provider or health insurer could be traps to install data-stealing malware. Does the message ask you to open a link? Is the domain the same as the presumed medical provider? Delete if in doubt and call your provider to confirm.
Phony phone caller? Your phone says the unknown caller is from Medicare, with an 800 number. Yet the caller asks for your Medicare number and credit card information so you can “buy” a new Medicare card. Just hang up.
Support group supportive? Online support communities for people with specific conditions are common targets of thieves. Avoid posting sensitive info unless it’s a secure site.