Prevent ID Theft: Medical ID theft can have deadly consequences

Medical ID theft and medical fraud are crimes that can literally kill you! If a thief has your medical ID number, they can use it to get medical treatment, fill prescriptions, have surgery, lab work, etc. The result is the fact that your personal medical history has now become contaminated. If the thief’s medical information gets mixed in with your permanent medical file, doctors may not know the difference.

When your medical information is stolen, you will get hit with the bills for services you never received. You will also be responsible for the co-pays as well. You will have no recourse but to pay up. If you don’t pay your bills, it will affect your credit score and result in collections agencies coming after you. Your lifetime benefit amount could also be reduced. Even worse, your policy could be dropped by your insurance company.

The healthcare industry surpassed all other industries in the amount of data breaches in 2014. In 44 percent of those breaches, thieves were targeting medical ID info. Medical credentials fetch a high price on the dark Web because of how profitable medical fraud and theft have become.

While you can’t eliminate the risk of becoming a victim, you can lessen the risk by keeping your medical insurance card at home and only take it with you when you have a doctor visit. Never share your number, especially with a stranger in an ‘unsolicited’ phone call. Protect your medical ID number the same way you protect your Social Security number and don’t carry it in your wallet.

The advice is to make a photocopy of your medical insurance card, scratch out the last 4 numbers of your medical ID number and keep that copy in your wallet — instead of the original card. Only carry the original medical card in your wallet on the day you need to visit the doctor and don’t forget to remove it from your wallet when you get back home.

Always review your Explanation of Benefits statement or Medicare statement to see if it contains billing charges that seem suspicious or lists services or equipment you did not receive.

If so, be sure to report it to your insurance company. You should also request a copy of your medical records to see what shows up on your medical history. Lastly, the Department of Health and Human Services has a special anti-fraud hotline: 800-447-8477.

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