Medical Identity Theft: How It Could Get You Killed

January 22, 2014
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medical identity theftWhen considering identity theft, most people worry about getting their credit card information or social security number stolen. However, these are not the only types of identity theft you need to watch out for. Medical identity theft is on the rise, and it can be hazardous to your health.

medical identity theftWhen considering identity theft, most people worry about getting their credit card information or social security number stolen. However, these are not the only types of identity theft you need to watch out for. Medical identity theft is on the rise, and it can be hazardous to your health.

What is Medical Identity Theft?

Medical identity theft is what happens when someone other than you uses your name and other personally identifying information to seek medical treatment. This problem is rapidly growing, but too few people are aware that it is even something to be concerned about. In fact, one study shows that it has risen at least 20 percent in the last year. In many places, medical records are becoming more valuable to criminals than social security numbers and credit card records. This personally identifying information gets sold, allowing others to masquerade as you while seeking medical care.

How Can This Hurt Me?

Whether you are currently ill or not, medical identity theft can hurt you in many ways. If you get injured or need a blood transfusion for any reason, the doctors are going to consult your medical chart. If you have been the victim of medical identity theft, the blood type on your chart may not match what’s in your body. This can cause a severe reaction and can even lead to your death. Do you have any allergies? If these have been incorrectly documented in your file, you could easily end up getting incorrect medication, making you even more sick or leading to other complications. If any complications arise then consulting a medical malpractice lawyer is essential, remember a lawyer who deals with personal injury might not necessarily deal with malpractice lawsuits.

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Who Gets the Bill?

One of the main reasons that this practice is growing is because of the rising cost of medical care. Those who can’t afford medical treatment are able to attain personally identifying information, allowing them to get the treatment they need on your tab. If you receive a medical bill that you don’t recognize, it is likely that you have been a victim of medical identity theft. It’s important that you don’t ignore these bills, however. Call the hospital or clinic that sent the bill to try to straighten out the problem. Otherwise, the theft will end up affecting your credit, causing you further harm. Consulting a lawyer who specializes in medical malpractice might also be a good idea as getting the bill for a procedure that you didn’t need or want that could have hurt you is ridiculous.

How do Others Get My Info?

Strangely enough, not all medical identity theft comes unannounced. In fact, about a third of the time, this crime is brought upon by the victims themselves. When a family member or friend is in need of medical care, some reported victims of this theft actually admit to giving the perpetrator their information. This is usually to help the sick or injured party get the medical care they need. However, it is a dangerous practice.

In addition to this, medical identity theft happens in much the same way that traditional identity theft happens. From hacked computers to giving out the information yourself unwittingly, criminals are able to get your medical information with your social security number, name, and address. This information can also be obtained by identifying paperwork that is thrown away carelessly. Criminals are then able to take that information and sell it to others who need medical help, but don’t have the means to pay for it.

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How Can I Protect Myself?

Make sure that you are checking your credit report regularly. In addition to this, get your benefits request each year. This will allow you to take a look and ensure that nothing strange is being reported. Getting a copy of your medical records can also help ensure that nothing is being reported wrong. Be careful about who you give your social security number and address to. Make sure that you safeguard any medical billing information by shredding it before you throw it out.

While many people don’t yet know about medical identity theft, it is something that everyone should be on the lookout for. Keep your medical information secure and correct, or it could easily end up costing you your life.

(medical identity theft / shutterstock)