What is Medical ID Theft and How to Protect Yourself
Identity theft is more prevalent in the digital age. Medical identity theft can be just as damaging, if in a completely different way. Here’s a look at what medical ID theft is and steps you can take to protect yourself from it.
What is Medical ID Theft?
Medical ID theft is the discovery and utilization of another person’s personal information—name, address, social security number, and even insurance numbers—to gain access to medical care. While it might not seem like a big deal if someone goes to the doctor with your name, it can be a very big deal.
For example, taking out prescriptions in your name, particularly narcotics, and then selling them illegally could lead to you. Having your insurance information means they can charge services and prescriptions to your insurance. Additionally, you may wind up with thousands of dollars of medical bills. That could just be the beginning.
How Can You Protect Yourself?
Be just as careful with your medical numbers as you would with any other. It is not a good idea to leave insurance cards or billing paperwork that have important numbers on it where someone else can find them. The elderly tend to be main targets for this kind of theft. Even people you feel should be trustworthy, such as in home caretakers, can be tempted. Never let anyone borrow your insurance or ID, and report lost cards right away.
Be Aware of Scams
Guarding those numbers include being wary of giving them out. If complementary medical equipment offers request your insurance numbers, bells should be going off. If it is without charge, there is no need to have some place to bill. Other common scams reported by the Office of the Inspector General include:
- Being approached for free anything (i.e. offering to buy you groceries) in exchange for your insurance card
- Phone calls claiming to be conducting health surveys that ask for your insurance or social security number
- Phone calls or emails claiming to be your insurance company asking for payment over the phone or internet
Look through medical bills, insurance summaries, credit reports, or benefits notifications. Double check dates, equipment, doctor visits, etc, to make sure they were all things you ordered or check ups you attended. If anything looks strange, you are double charged, or charged for visits, medication, or equipment that aren’t yours, it’s time to start making phone calls.
How to Report Fraud
If you suspect you are a victim of medical ID theft, the Office of the Inspector General suggests the following places to make reports:
Department Of Health & Human Services Office Of Inspector General Hotline
Phone: 1-800-447-8477 (1-800-HHS-TIPS)
Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft Hotline Report misuse of your personal information
Phone: 1-877-438-4338 (1-877-ID-THEFT)
You can also report directly to Medicare or local Senior Medicare Patrols.
Medicare Call Center and Senior Medicare Patrols
Phone: 1-800-633-4227 (1-800-MEDICARE)