In the modern world, you have different personas— your actual self, online self, and medical self. These different personas are made up of your online records and history. If the wrong person gets their hands on your medical persona, it can lead to disastrous results.
Having your medical identity stolen can cause financial damage, hurt your credit score, or result in mistakes in your medical records, leading to misdiagnosis. Your medical identity is one of the most precious things you own, and it only takes a few practical tools to safeguard it.
What is Medical Identity Theft?
Medical identity theft is one of the most damaging types of theft, as it directly affects the resources the victim uses to maintain good health. Medical identity theft is when a thief uses your personally identifiable information (or PII) to receive your benefit in the form of medical attention, equipment, or medication they would not have otherwise been able to get.
When identity thieves try to access your medical resources, their intent is to get their hands on your SSN, health insurance documents, medical accounts, and other private information like your birth date and addresses where you’ve lived in the past.
Mail or even something as mundane as a credit card offer often contain this type of information, which many homeowners leave lying around their home. Once thieves have what they need, they’re able to see doctors, get prescriptions, and more, all under your name.
What Do Thieves Do With My Information?
Much of the time, the perpetrator of medical identity theft doesn’t have reliable health insurance themselves and cannot get the treatment they need. Another possibility is that the thief is an addict looking for some way to support their habit.
You may also have to entertain the idea that the person who stole your medical identity is a family member. It’s a disheartening thought, but close family members are likely to have access to your PII, and their credentials may match well with yours.
No matter who it is or what they’re doing with your information, medical identity theft can leave you with costly medical bills or a stranger’s health records mixed in with yours. You may also not be aware of the breach and leave some accounts unpaid, which can negatively alter your credit rating.
If the culprit is your healthcare provider, they may use your information to file fraudulent insurance claims. If you think this is the case, report your healthcare provider immediately.
If your medical identity has been compromised, you could be refused care or life-saving medication or even have an arrest warrant issued in your name.
If you’ve been wondering how to prevent medical identity theft, there are a few key steps to ensure all your personal medical information is locked down.
How to Prevent Medical Identity Theft
By keeping a close watch on your records, fully understanding your benefits, and shredding everything you don’t need, you can keep your medical identity and information safe.
If you receive reminders for appointments that you didn’t make, fraudulent charges, or other odd pieces of mail, these may be clues your identity has been compromised. If you’re not getting your correspondence at all, this could be another sign that all is not right.
Get Medical Record Copies
You can request your medical records from your doctor and keep them locked in a safe spot, like a locking file cabinet, so that you can check them often.
If you’ve already been a victim of medical identity, your doctor may balk at sharing your records with you, as they may think it violates the thief’s right to privacy under the law. But you can appeal to change details on your health records with the Federal Trade Commission.
You may also want to check the doctor’s office or pharmacy where the fraudulent charges originated from. If you are charged money for your records, which happens in some states, pinpoint the period in which the thief may have been using your information and request records within that time frame.
Accounting of Disclosures
Every year, you are eligible for one free Accounting of Disclosures, and should request one if you feel you’ve been the victim of medical identity theft.
This accounting provides what information your healthcare provider sent, who received this information, and why it was sent.
An Accounting of Disclosure is an ideal tool if you’ve been learning how to prevent medical identity theft and want to know who has requested your medical information and for what reasons. This is very personal data, so make sure it is stored safely, like in a locking file cabinet.
Shred All Unused Documents
Locking your PII up is one way to safeguard your personal medical information, but keeping a shredder right next to your desk adds another layer of security. After you have perused your medical bills or documents, pop them straight into your shredder, and you can worry less about the chances of medical fraud.
While thieves can jimmy a filing cabinet lock open with a screwdriver or drill, a shredded document is impossible to read and impossible to steal. If you want total security, a shredder is your best bet.
It’s not glamorous or fun, but taking advantage of your Accounting of Disclosures yearly free offer is paramount to keeping your medical identity safe. Once you do an initial breakdown of your medical history, the subsequent check-ups won’t take as much time, and it’s worth it to keep that scrutiny on your medical identity.
Guarding your PII and medical information is necessary if you suspect someone is using your identity as their own to get medical care or other medical-related issues.
Using simple devices like a shredder and a locking file cabinet can keep prying eyes off your PII. Take advantage of your Accounting of Disclosures to check who is asking for your information and what reasons they provide.
Much of the hard work in keeping your medical info safe is through observation and organization, two skills you can readily learn. It is paramount to your health and wellbeing that any fraudulent breaches of your medical identity be dealt with swiftly and thoroughly.