When people hear the term identity theft, more often than not they think of scammers phishing for financial information, emails, and stealing information given out online. It’s a serious matter when it happens, and results in a lot of financial pain and anxiety. Medical identity theft can be equally as devastating.
What is medical identity theft? Why does this happen?
By definition, the theft of your medical identity is the theft of personal private health information for the sake of receiving treatments, services, or goods such as expensive medicines. The perpetrator of such crimes is usually trying to gain access to another person’s health insurance policy, prescription drugs, or government benefits. Their illegal gain comes at the expense of someone who legally has such benefits, and needs them for themselves or their family.
This is a growing problem, especially in the U.S., where, as recent as several years ago, one in three Americans were affected by breaches of their health information. The reason why so many fraudsters are trying to snatch others’ health care information is that it lasts a lifetime, as it is not as easily changed as a name on a credit card.
Isn’t our medical information supposed to be secure?
It’s supposed to be! However, some of the fraudsters are from the medical industry themselves, and have access to such records, while the public does not. That being said, there are actions the public can take to prevent such disasters from happening.
- Keep all medical cards and copies of records in a safe place. Insurance cards need to be protected, much like any bank card or social security card.
- Don’t give into threats given over the phone or online with claims that your account has been hacked, and “information is required from you for your protection”. Legitimate companies never ask you to give out your information in such a manner.
- Get a protection plan from companies who specialize in stopping all forms of identity theft. Make sure they will also restore your identity if you ever do have a problem!
When it comes to giving out information to a doctor or nurse, try to vet them beforehand. Make sure they are trustworthy and, if possible, come highly recommended by others you know personally. It may feel like a lot of extra legwork on your end, but you will have a better sense of who is and isn’t trustworthy.
Identity theft is enough of a struggle for those affected by it, and the medical variety can be even worse. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to defend yourself and your family from those who make it their mission to steal and use your medical information. Again, the key is to protect your own and your family’s information at all costs. Do not give out information over the phone or via the web. Research and make certain the person or company you are dealing with is legitimate. Doing these things will help your information remain protected.