Tips: Prevent Medical Identity Theft

Medical identity theft won't just harm your pocketbook, but could cost you your health. Unlike traditional identity theft, the consequences of medical identity go beyond the financial costs. They can impact your health due to inaccurate information being documented on medical records, potentially leading to future misdiagnosis and other complications.

Medical identity theft occurs when criminals steal health insurance identification or Social Security Numbers and use them to obtain healthcare services or reimbursement from insurers for fraudulent claims. According to the World Privacy Forum, as many as 250,000 to 500,000 consumers have been victims of medical identity theft as of mid-2006.

"Medical ID theft can be devastating for consumers," commented Doug Pollack, chief marketing officer for identity theft protection company ID Experts. "Checking for medical identity fraud must become a part of everyone's complete identity protection practices -- it's that prevalent."

ID Experts offers tips to protect healthcare information from being compromised by thieves.

1. Eliminate your Social Security number from your insurance records. If your insurance company, such as Medicare/Medicaid, still uses Social Security Numbers as insurance identification, don't carry your card in your wallet unless absolutely necessary. Instead carry a copy of your card (front and back) and black out the last four digits. Write the name/phone number of a personal contact on the card copy that could give the last 4 digits of your SSN to a medical provider in an emergency.

2. Get copies of your medical records, insurance claims and credit reports. Request copies of all records, claims and reports, in writing, to be sent to a secure location such as a locked mailbox or P.O. Box.

3. Review all medical records, claims and reports for unusual entries. Look for services never rendered to you or your dependents, inaccurate diagnoses, address changes, collections, and disclosures made to other agencies or health providers.

4. Dispute any misinformation with your insurance provider, health provider or credit bureaus for investigation and/or removal. Make all disputes in writing and provide copies of any claims that include misinformation.

5. Protect the paper trail. Use your shredder to destroy claims that are more than seven years old. Ask your insurance provider if you can receive online statements instead of paper.

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