Why you should know about medical identity theft

Medical identity theft is the illegal access and use of a patient’s personally identifiable information (PII) to obtain medical treatment, services or goods.

The thief’s goal is to obtain key pieces of  personal information that will allow the thief to impersonate the victim. In addition to stealing the victim’s date of birth, address and social security number, the thief may also steal the identification number the patient is assigned by his or her health care provider. The stolen information may be used to open credit card accounts or obtain medical services such as treatment at an emergency medical crisis location. The information may also be used to fraudulently obtain prescription drugs or expensive medical equipment that can be sold on the black market.

Victims of medical identity theft may receive bills for medical services they did not receive, and the length of time it can take to resolve a dispute may have a negative impact on the victim’s credit rating and future insurance costs. The perpetrators’ actions may also add false information to the victim’s electronic health record (EHR). Left unnoticed, this could provide medical personnel with incorrect or conflicting information about the patient’s medical history or prescribed medications.

To mitigate the impact of medical identity theft, patients should routinely monitor their credit ratings and carefully read over bank, credit card and insurance statements to ensure that  all charges are legitimate. Suspicious activity should be reported to the appropriate agency as soon as possible.

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn