ABC News recently ran an article about the dangers of medical ID theft. Medical ID theft happens when someone steals your Medicare or health insurance number to steal treatment, prescriptions or submit claims all under your name. The Federal Trade Commission has labeled it “a growing menace”.
According to Experian.com, medical identity theft can happen when someone physically steals your information, such as your wallet with your health insurance card in it or medical records that you threw out. The thief often isn’t a random person – many times it’s a family member.
Medical identity theft can also happen when hackers steal information from health insurance companies and medical providers. In fact, medical records can be a juicer target than financial accounts. In 2017, Experian found that credit and debit card information could be sold on the dark web for up to $110 per account. At the same time, medical records were going for up to $1,000, depending on how complete the records were and whether it was a single record or entire database.
Like other forms of identity theft, many times consumers become victims due to record loss or theft from companies that house medical records. This can include healthcare facilities, data centers, medical providers, insurance providers, or equipment resellers.
On September 9, 2021, HealthReach Community Health Centers notified 101,395 people of a potential healthcare breach when they learned that hard drives that were not disposed of properly. Instead of being wiped and shredded, several hard drives were improperly disposed of by a third-party storage facility. Those hard drives contained patient names, SSNs, dates of birth, financial account numbers, lab/test results, insurance details, passwords, security codes, and PINs.
The dangers of medical ID theft include the patient being denied services in the future, suffering a life-threatening medicine mix-up, or a medical history mistake. ABC News suggested that consumers guard their medical ID cards. Do not share your card with anyone who calls, and don’t text or email it to anyone. They also suggest that consumers read their explanation of benefits, and if they see something that wasn’t them, report it right away.
If you’ve been a victim of medical identity theft, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, online or at 877-438-4338. If the fraud is Medicare-related, report it to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General, online or at 800-447-8477.