Members beware!!! Identity theft has procreated on a whole other level with a malicious new crime known as medical identity theft. Studies have shown that over two million Americans have already been victimized by this crime and just within the past year this crime has increased by 22 percent, leaving approximately 500,000 people affected.
These thieves steal your personal information such as health insurance number, date of birth and Social Security number amongst other things, to fill their own pockets with fraudulent claims against your own health policy. More than often this information is taken by employees in medical facilities and resold on the black market. It is also a possibility for these thieves to hack into medical databases or break into medical facilities.
Sadly, victims typically do not learn about fraudulent activity till approximately three months after the crimes has already been committed and 30 percent do not even know they became a victim. On average about 65 percent of medical identity theft victims have had to pay an average of $13,500 to resolve the crime and suffer greatly from this horrible experience.
Medical identity theft can cost you thousands of dollars, constant stress, and even threaten your life and health. They bill your health insurance for fake or inflated treatment claims to get medical care, buy drugs or expensive medical equipment to use or sell. Fraudulent insurance claims can max out your health policy limits. This can leave you with no coverage when you have a medical emergency, or need an expensive operation or other treatment needed.
Furthermore, thieves often ring up large hospital bills in your name, then disappear without paying. This can ruin your credit. All of these false claims against your health insurance policy can raise your health premiums, costing you even more money!
A thief’s treatment history can end up on your medical records. This could include the wrong blood type, or medicine to which you are allergic. Your life thus could be on the line if you receive the wrong treatment based on the thief’s medical information which becomes mixed with yours.
To try to avoid going through this experience, you need to make sure that you monitor your health records once a year. You can request that your insurer provide a listing of benefits paid out under your policy each year. If the provider denies your request for your records, you have the right to appeal. It is also recommended that you keep a copy of your personal medical records from doctors, hospitals, pharmacy or laboratories in safe place.
Be suspicious if someone offers you “free” health services or products, but require you to provide your health ID number. Medical identity thieves may pretend to work for an insurance company, doctors’ office, clinic, or pharmacy to try to trick you into revealing sensitive information.
You should always keep an eye on your credit through a selected credit agencies such as Equifax, Experian and TransUnion to make sure no one has rung up any unpaid medical bills or any other fraudulent activity in your name.
Lastly, it is important that if any fraudulent activity is found that you file a medical identity complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/ or call FTC’s toll-free hotline at 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338)