Here’s how becoming a victim of ID theft can damage your health:
- It causes anxiety and emotional distress: Healthcare professionals agree that chronic anxiety and emotional distress can cause conditions like insomnia, lethargy, hypertension and slowed cognitive ability. Our state of mind directly affects the health of our body, so it’s really not surprising that identity theft can have such a huge impact on both our emotional and physical health. According to the United States Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, nearly half of all identity theftvictims in 2012 who spent six months or more dealing with the aftermath of the crime reported suffering from severe emotional distress as a result of the experience. The distress reported included depression, anxiety, rage and marital problems.
- Your medical record could contain false information, potentially leading to misdiagnoses: If an identity thief seeks medical care under your name, then their medical information may corrupt your own file, altering your health record. This can have dangerous consequences, since doctors could change your treatment as a result of the false information.
- Your prescription medications could be withheld: According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a woman from Missouri crafted fraudulent drivers’ licenses using her victims’ personal information, and then used the licenses to pick up those people’s prescriptions from local pharmacies, taking away medications from the patients who actually need them.
Additionally, medical identity fraud can impact your ability to qualify for health insurance, and with it affordable healthcare treatment. If you are a victim of medical identity theft, a criminal could sign up for health insurance using your identifying information. The thief’s medical record will then be on your files, and their preexisting conditions could make signing up for health insurance unaffordable for you until you clear things up.
So what can you do to avoid these identity theft-related health hazards? Here are some ideas:
- Keep your information secure: Criminals can only use your medical insurance if they first get ahold of your personal information, such as your Social Security number, name and date of birth. So, keeping your sensitive data as secure as possible will do a great deal in minimizing your risk. Lock up your passport, birth certificate, Social Security card, health insurance forms and bank account statements in a personal safe in your home. This way intruders won’t be able to uncover valuable data.
- Seek help for stress: If you’ve become the victim of a crime, don’t try to bottle up your emotions. Instead, seek out a supportive loved one or a licensed therapist who can help you cope with the increased amount of anxiety in your life.