Medical identity theft, which can involve criminals either stealing personal data to bill victims for their own care or selling stolen data in bulk for financial fraud, is emerging as a significant problem, with some 27,821 cases reported in 2022.
Understanding the issue: Medical identity theft involves criminals stealing peoples’ personal data either to use their health insurance or to sell the data in bulk.
* There are several ways this can happen, one method involves individuals stealing physical copies of ID and insurance cards to use for care.
* Large data breaches, such as HCA Healthcare’s who recently exposed the data of 11 million patients, also play a significant role by providing thieves with large amounts of data they can either sell or use for fraudulent medical care.
Real World Impact: The repercussions of medical identity theft are not only financial but can also potentially impact the health of victims.
* False information added to a victim’s medical history can interfere with their ability to receive needed prescriptions or treatments.
* The victim’s credit can be severely damaged by unpaid medical bills for services they never received.
Scale of the problem: Although medical identity theft is relatively rare compared with other types of identity theft, it is a growing problem.
* In 2022, 707 health care data breaches impacted nearly 52 million patients.
* While only 27,821 reports of medical identity theft were recorded in the same year, experts believe the actual number may be significantly higher due to the nature of the crime.
Consumer defence: Vigilance and proactive actions can help consumers minimize their risk.
* Consumers should monitor their records and immediately report any suspicious activity.
* If identity theft is suspected, consumers need to act quickly by contacting their insurer and placing fraud alerts with credit monitoring agencies.
* Victims should also contact those providers involved to correct any errors in medical records to avoid any potential health risks.
Quote-highlight: “It’s best to proceed as if your data has been compromised and will be for sale,” advises Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center.
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