There’s never an optimal time to deal with identity theft and fraud, but one of the very worst times is during or following a health-related crisis or flare.
Unfortunately, medical identity fraud and theft is an exceedingly pervasive problem, and its consequences can be devastating. Even worse, those with long-term or chronic illnesses are more likely to fall victim to these types of crimes. This is due to the frequency of which they need to share sensitive information with hospitals, doctors, and insurers. Why would someone commit such a crime?
Generally, medical identity thieves use another person’s information to claim doctoral services, drugs, or treatments for themselves. It’s a dangerous practice, medical identity theft can lead to misplaced or mixed-up medical records. This can have terrible consequences for the victim, who may not receive proper health care as a result. It also will cost a shockingly high amount of money to untangle. Being a victim of medical identity theft can lead to tragedy, but it can also be prevented. Protect yourself, and your security, by following these hard and fast rules:
1. Keep your Medical Information Private
We are living in a time of constant digital communication, and it often leads to people sharing private information with strangers. It’s crucial to remember that some information is never meant to be shared with others, particularly your medical and identifying records. Things like your Social Security Number or health insurance ID are always to be kept far away from prying eyes. Your medical providers, of course, will be asking for this information. Before telling them anything, we recommend that you ask them a few questions first: clarify what they need it for, who else will have access to your information, and where it will be stored. Once you feel confident with their replies, you can share your private details, but we still advise you to do it face-to-face, rather than digitally or over the phone.
2. Invest in a Shredder
If you are managing a long-term diagnosis or chronic illness, it’s likely that you have acquired a fair amount of medical paperwork over time. Generally, these documents are teeming with personal information, from your medical history to your identifying numbers. Eventually, you might want to throw these documents away, and it’s imperative to do so as securely as possible. To avoid any opportunists sifting through your recycling bin, it’s best to thoroughly shred all of your sensitive documents before throwing them away lest they end up in the wrong hands.
3. Communicate with your Insurance Provider
It’s wise to check in with your health insurance provider every so often; they should have a record of all the benefits that have been paid under your name. Ask them to provide this list for you, and look out for anything that doesn’t sound familiar. If anything raises suspicion, you will be able to quickly jump into action.
4. Thoroughly Read your Documents
Whenever you pay for any medical service with your health insurance, you receive a document. It’s called your Explanation of Benefits, and it’s from your insurers. It explains what service you were provided and which parts of it are covered by your plan.
5. Stay Up-to-Date About Current Scams
Scammers and identity thieves are always coming up with new ways to steal information. To avoid falling victim to medical fraud or identity theft, it’s best to stay in the know about which tactics identity thieves are currently using.
One current scam involves offering free medical equipment (such as accessories for hearing aids) to a potential victim. The scammer will claim that, in order to receive this “free gift,” one must provide their health insurance information. Offers like this generally seem too good to be true – because they are. When in doubt, be sure to ask for some time to research the people or company who contacted you. It’s better to be safe than sorry in these situations.
Avoiding medical identity theft involves remaining vigilant and being careful. Be sure to ask questions when in doubt, and be safe rather than sorry.