You entrust your health insurance company, employer and medical care providers with a valuable cache of personal information, from your contact information to your Social Security Number and medical history. This makes your medical information a rich target for hackers, fraudsters and thieves seeking to capitalize on your personal data. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) defines medical identity fraud as such:
“A thief may use your name or health insurance numbers to see a doctor, get prescription drugs, file claims with your insurance provider, or get other care,” explains a FTC overview of the crime. “If the thief’s health information is mixed with yours, your treatment, insurance and payment records, and credit report may be affected.”
Identity fraudsters may use medical information to gain care for themselves, or leverage the corresponding information about your identity to access finances and other personal data. In some cases, they have even sent fraudulent billing that consumers feel compelled to pay. A 2015 Ponemon Institute survey of medical ID theft found that since the previous study in 2014, the prevalence had grown by 21 percent. This rising issue hits consumers in a stressful and already expensive place: medical payments.
Here are three reasons why healthcare-related ID fraud can be harmful to consumers:
- Medical identity theft can be hard to discover. One myth that many consumers believe about medical ID fraud is that care providers and insurance carriers will be proactive about identifying and alerting them to fraudulent activity. This is often not the case, so the lead time for uncovering medical fraud can be several months or longer. Nearly a third of victims report that even after pursuing the problem, they’re unable to determine when or how the fraud was initiated.
- Fraud related to medical care can be challenging to resolve. Only 10 percent of Ponemon respondents reported that they felt satisfied with the resolution of their case. This number is low, the report states, because HIPPA privacy laws mandates a certain degree of participation from patients and insurance policyholders, making the process lengthy and sometimes protracted.
- Victims of medical identity theft endure embarrassment and other social challenges. “Forty-five percent of respondents say medical identity theft affected their reputation mainly because of embarrassment due to disclosure of sensitive personal health conditions,” explains the Ponemon report. “Nineteen percent of respondents believe the theft caused them to miss out on career opportunities. Three percent say it resulted in the loss of employment.”
This combination of factors should make every consumer cautious about their risk. Because insurance companies and care facilities are unlikely to seek out cases of ID fraud, it’s up to individuals to be proactive about the safety of their identities.
If you think you may be at risk for medical identity fraud, fraud protection and credit monitoring services services can restore peace of mind and help you address certain activity on your credit file that may be indicative of fraud. Contact Identity Guard USA today for more information about our fraud protection services and let a reputable company help protect you.