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The Resource Center Identity Theft & Protection The Resource Center | article

New Study Finds That More Than 2 Million Americans Are Victims Of Medical Identity Theft

Medical identity theft is a growing problem in the United States.

Medical identity theft is a growing problem in the United States.

The Medical Identity Theft Alliance (MITA) recently released the Fifth Annual Study on Medical Identity Theft, conducted by the Ponemon Institute and sponsored by the Medical Identity Fraud Alliance (MIFA). The study found that 2.32 million Americans have been victimized by medical identity theft, and the number of people affected by this crime increased by about 22 percent in the last year. In fact, the Institute estimates that almost 500,000 of the 2.32 million cases took place in 2014 alone.

These results are made even more startling by the fact that the survey was conducted in November and does not include the effects of the Anthem data breach, the largest in United States healthcare history that could end up affecting 80 million Americans.

Ann Patterson, the Senior Vice President and Program Director of MIFA, explained why the organization sponsors the annual survey on the MIFA website.

“MIFA’s singular focus is on what has emerged in recent years as a significant and deeply personal healthcare threat ‒ medical identity fraud,” she said. “Our mission is to galvanize all stakeholders in the healthcare industry around awareness, prevention, detection and remediation. Medical identity theft isn’t just a financial threat ‒ it’s also clinical ‒ and it has a much longer timeline than other forms of identity theft.”

Medical identity theft has several ramifications that are different from other kinds of id theft. Here are some of the consequences:

  • It can create health risks: Medical identity theft is particularly disturbing because it has not only financial and emotional effects but can also pose a serious health risk. If criminals use a person’s health insurance to receive care, they could be contaminating that person’s medical records with false information. This has resulted in later misdiagnoses, mistreatments, the prescription of the wrong medications and delays in medical treatment.
  • It’s more difficult to detect: Financial institutions have extensive security systems that warn consumers when a suspicious payment has been made with their information. However, healthcare organizations rarely notify consumers about potentially suspicious activities. According to the survey, the average victim didn’t find out about the crime until three months after it occurred.
  • It’s more permanent: Medical identity theft often involves the theft of permanently identifiable information such as Social Security numbers. This is much more harmful to consumers than, for instance, the theft of payment card information, because your Social Security number and birth date cannot be replaced like a credit card can. Permanent information is therefore easier for criminals to sell, and there’s no expiration date on its use.
  • Financial repercussions are greater: The Ponemon study reports that 65 percent of victims of medical identity theft spent an average of $13,500 to resolve the matter.
    • If you’re concerned that you’ve become the victim of medical id theft, you can ask to see a copy of your medical files to ensure that no false information has been added. Although there’s no way to prevent theft from occurring, the sooner you detect a crime the sooner you can see it resolved.

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