Just when you think you’ve heard every identity theft scenario, one like this pops up. Recently a consumer received a credit monitoring alert regarding a collection or delinquency on their account. After further review, the consumer learned the unpaid bills were for medical services provided to a toddler. Not only were the charges not for the person’s own child – but the consumer had never had any children at all!
Medical identity theft is one type of identity theft that you may not hear about often, but the effects of the crime can be potentially very dangerous. In addition to the financial impact it can have, the act of altering medical records could result in an inaccurate diagnosis and could even be deadly if the information resulted in a drug interaction or allergic reaction.
Medical ID theft can happen in a number of ways. As was likely in this case, a thief can obtain a copy of a victim’s insurance card and use it at a doctor’s office or hospital – or even to buy prescription drugs. But, they also could have used the victim’s social security number and insurance ID number to receive care at an emergency room. In some extreme cases, medical identity thieves have even used information obtained from healthcare records to file phony insurance claims resulting in cash payoffs from health insurance companies.
Although it is important to carry your medical ID card with you in case of an emergency, treat it as you would your ATM or credit card. This is especially crucial in cases where your social security number is printed directly on the card. If your card is ever lost, report it to your insurance carrier immediately. In addition, be sure to monitor insurance statements regularly. Even or especially if you do not go to the doctor’s office often, make sure you receive statements at least annually. Sophisticated thieves will change an address on your account so that fraudulent charges go undetected.
Lastly, unpaid hospital or doctor bills that have gone to collections should eventually show up on your credit report. Monitoring your credit report regularly is one of the best ways to make sure you are protected whenever you are talking about medical or any other form of identity theft.