President Obama has called identity theft the fastest growing crime in America. Most Americans recognize the dangers of financial information being compromised. Many are not aware of a greater threat: their medical records falling into the wrong hands.
According to the latest study by the Medical Identity Theft Alliance, 2.32 million Americans have been victims of medical identity theft. What makes this so troubling is hospitals typically have low security, and healthcare records often include permanently identifiable information like Social Security numbers and dates of birth. Consequently, they are much more lucrative than credit card numbers on the black market.
Sadly, victims of medical identity theft have considerably fewer protections than individuals whose credit cards have been stolen. Sixty-five percent of the victims surveyed reported paying an average of $13,500 to resolve the crime. Thirty-one percent lost their health insurance, and a fifth saw decreased credit scores.
Once a thief has your personal information, they can get medical care, submit claims, buy prescription drugs and even purchase expensive medical equipment to resell. If that wasn’t bad enough, your health can be jeopardized if a thief’s medical history is entwined with yours. You may be unable to examine your records because of the thief’s health data, which is protected by medical privacy laws. False claims can lead to being turned down for life, disability or long-term care insurance.
Take steps to safeguard your information. Verify a clinic’s email exchange is secure before emailing new patient forms. Remove and shred labels from prescriptions before discarding containers. Keep papers from clinics and insurance companies in a safe place. Avoid giving out your complete Social Security number. Always review Explanations of Benefits for discrepancies. (This becomes even more important if you’re on Medicare since claims require a Social Security number.) Check credit reports for unpaid medical bills, and ask to see your medical records.
Protecting your personal information is important to us. For more information on obtaining and monitoring your accounts and credit history and for tips on protecting your identity, please give Jordan Dechtman, Denver wealth manager a call at 303-741-9772, email him at Jordan@JordanDechtman.com to schedule an appointment.