Medical Identity Theft Is on the Rise

Medical identity theft and family fraud are on the rise. The number of victims affected by medical identity theft was up nearly 20% within the last year, according to a survey by Ponemon Institute. Medical identity theft affects an estimated 1.84 million people in the U.S., with victims forking out more than $12 billion in out-of-pocket costs as a result.

Half of the consumers surveyed are not aware that medical identity theft can create inaccuracies in their medical records, resulting in a misdiagnosis, mistreatment, or the wrong prescriptions. Yet, 50% of consumers surveyed don’t take steps to protect themselves, mostly because they don’t know how. The survey also finds that consumers often put themselves at risk by sharing their medical identification with family members or friends.

Medical identity theft getting bigger and more complex with the Affordable Care Act and the increased use of electronic health records. In 2013, the economic consequences of medical identity theft to victims was estimated at more than $12.3 billion in out-of-pocket expenses.

Medical identity theft victims surveyed experienced a misdiagnosis (15% of respondents), mistreatment (13% of respondents), delay in treatment (14% of respondents), or were prescribed the wrong pharmaceuticals (11% of respondents). Half of respondents have done nothing to resolve the incident. Fifty-four percent of consumers do not check their health records. Thirty percent of respondents allowed a family member to use their personal identification to get medical services.

Consumers are encouraged to take the following steps to prevent medical identity theft:

1. Review your explanation of benefits.
2. Obtain your benefits request annually.
3.  Protect your medical insurance card.
4. Safeguard your insurance-related paperwork. Shred or file your Explanation of Benefits in a safe, and preferably locked location.
5. Report lost or stolen health insurance identification cards.
6. Use vigilance when providing your personal or insurance information. Be sure you’re dealing with a reputable healthcare provider. Be cautious when offered free medical services. Often fraudsters use this as a way to get your health information.
7. Review your credit reports annually. You have a right to request a free annual credit report from each of the three credit bureaus. Be sure your reports are free of any medical liens.

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Last Updated 01/19/2022

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