Medical identity theft is a crime on the rise. Nearly 2.5 million cases were reported in 2014, an increase of 20 percent from the year before. A stolen medical identity can ruin finances, compromise medical treatment and cause legal problems.
If a thief steals a person’s medical identity, he or she can use it to get expensive surgery and medical goods, like wheelchairs. Cleaning up the bills can take years and can also negatively affect a person’s credit score. According to the Medical Identity Fraud Alliance, once a person’s medical record is mixed with a criminal’s, the identity theft victim can get the wrong diagnosis, or the wrong treatment.
One of the best ways for people to protect themselves is to ensure they always have copies of their medical records. That way, if a thief gets them, the victim can prove they’ve been altered. Also, people should check their medical records at least once per year to make sure they’re accurate.
People should read each benefit notice from their insurance company and call immediately if they see anything fishy. Anyone who loses their health insurance card should ask for a new ID number for their new card.
Almost half of medical identity theft occurs when a family member takes a relative’s health insurance card or other ID, or when people knowingly share their information with someone else. Allowing a friend or relative to use their medical insurance is considered fraud and is illegal.