In an effort to follow the most widespread forms of identity theft and keep the public informed of these threats, the non-profit Identity Theft Resource Center keeps up with the types of calls that come into its 24-hour free call center. While the ITRC typically releases news of the types of ID theft that have the highest numbers of calls each month, last month provided some interesting and very telling insight into identity theft.
In January 2015, the lowest volume of calls at 3.8% of the total volume involved medical identity theft. In this particular type of crime, a thief accesses your personally identifiable information for the specific purpose of using your health insurance to pay for services. It may also be a matter of a criminal using your name and identity at the time of treatment, especially if there’s an underlying criminal issue such as a suspicious injury like a gunshot wound or the presence of a positive test of drug abuse.
Interestingly, one of the worst suspected medical data breaches ever was announced only days after the records closed for January. The Anthem insurance company hacking affected the second largest medical insurer in the country, affecting around 80 million current and previous clients and exposing their information to the possibility of identity theft. But it’s not just a matter of compromising your finances or your government benefits; medical identity theft can have far more serious consequences.
In the case of a thief using your health insurance, there are considerations in terms of lifetime benefits, denial of claims, outrageous medical bills that arrive in your name, and many other hassles that can affect your ability to use your health insurance coverage when you actually do need it. But even more alarming is the possibility that a thief receiving medical care under your identity could have potentially life-threatening consequences. What if a patient is diagnosed with diabetes or high blood pressure under your identity and you’re mistakenly treated for those issues in a real emergency? Or perhaps you arrive at a hospital presenting with symptoms of appendicitis, only doctors reviewing your medical records see that “your” appendix was removed a year before.
This is why it’s important to take action immediately, especially if you have reason to think your personal data was compromised. If you’ve been impacted by a data breach of some kind, make sure that you’re taking advantage of the free credit monitoring services offered by the affected company and looking over your credit reports yourself.
It’s interesting that medical identity theft accounts for so few calls compared to other types of ID theft. It certainly could be that the crime is just less prevalent than other forms like financial identity theft, but it could also be a matter of victims not realizing their identities have been compromised. Make sure you’re reading your credit reports and medical statements carefully for any suspicious activity, and it’s a good idea to request copies of your insurance statements each year so you can be on the lookout for any sign that someone is using your name—and therefore, your health—without your knowledge.
If you have questions about medical identity theft, please call our toll-free 24-hour a day call center at 888-400-5530.