2 Keys to Avoiding Medical Identity Theft

Photo (cc) by The National Guard

Medical identity theft is on the rise — by nearly 22 percent last year alone.

That’s according to the latest annual study on this type of identity theft conducted by the Ponemon Institute for the Medical Identity Fraud Alliance.

Medical identity theft is also expensive, and recovering from the crime can be complicated.

The Ponemon Institute’s study found that 65 percent of victims had to spend money to resolve the issue — an average of $13,500.

That dollar figure sometimes included paying health care providers and insurance companies for medical services from which thieves benefited. It also included the cost of hiring identity service providers or lawyers to help resolve the crime and prevent recurrences.

Victims also spent more than 200 hours on average to resolve the crime.

On top of that toll, 10 percent of victims suffered misdiagnoses or mistreatment of illnesses because of inaccuracies in their health records resulting from medical identity theft.

Wrongdoers prefer medical identity theft to other types of identity theft for several reasons, according to Consumer Reports.

For starters, medical identity theft can be more profitable. Some reports estimate that stolen medical information sells for about $50 per record, according to the Consumer Reports story. That compares with roughly $1 or less for U.S. credit card numbers.

Also, stopping thieves from using health information can be especially difficult. When your credit card number is stolen, you can get a new one, rendering the old credit card information useless to thieves. But it’s not as easy to get a clean slate for your Social Security number or medical history.

Finally, preventing medical identity theft can be more difficult than stopping other types of identity theft. However, there are key steps you can take to protect yourself. They include:

1. Minimize your exposure. Guard your personal information as closely as possible. Consumer Reports states:

For example, don’t give your Social Security number to health care providers unless you must, and ask whether other information, such as your date of birth and driver’s license number, is really needed before you provide it.

Be especially wary when contacted by phone or email, as many victims of this year’s massive Anthem cyberattack learned. The person on the other end of the line or Internet connection could be a thief who already has some of your personal information and is using it to try to get more out of you.

Consumer Reports also advises encrypting and password-protecting digital records, and storing paper records under lock and key.

2. Review records regularly. Closely read all health-related correspondence and records. Ann Patterson, senior vice president at the Medical Identity Fraud Alliance, tells Consumer Reports that she suggests consumers do a monthly review of their records using online patient portals offered by health care providers and insurers.

Also, regularly check your credit report. Because the three credit-reporting bureaus offer one free report per year, Consumer Reports suggests getting one report every four months. And be sure to check out our recent story, FTC Launches Free Identity Theft Tool.

Like this story? Share it on Facebook!

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021
14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021

These convenient household products come with hidden costs that you might not have considered.

10 Products That Upgrade Your Home for Less Than $45
10 Products That Upgrade Your Home for Less Than $45

Make a fresh start with these affordable Amazon buys.

5 Medicare Mistakes to Avoid for a Healthy Retirement
5 Medicare Mistakes to Avoid for a Healthy Retirement

Medicare can be confusing. Beware these missteps — which can hike your costs.

21 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store
21 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store

Dollar stores have great bargains on both everyday and occasional purchases.

5 Ways Retirees Can Lower Their Income Taxes
5 Ways Retirees Can Lower Their Income Taxes

Here’s how to keep Uncle Sam’s mitts away from your nest egg.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership
How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership

The warehouse club often has some of the cheapest gas in town. Here’s how you can get it as a nonmember.

10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home
10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home

If you like to keep things simple, avoid these purchases.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

Vacuums from this brand can last a half-century, if not longer — and they’re hot on the resale market.

A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today
A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today

A few steps can keep your phone from ringing when a spammer calls.

This Company Makes the Best Tires in America
This Company Makes the Best Tires in America

Driver satisfaction with tires is at an all-time high, but one brand stands out.

This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance
This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance

One type of pain is especially associated with cognitive decline.

Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?
Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?

Knowing when to claim can help you maximize benefits.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

This iconic dinnerware is prized for everyday use as well as reselling for profit.

Medicare Will Not Cover These 6 Medical Costs
Medicare Will Not Cover These 6 Medical Costs

Don’t let these health care expenses catch you off guard in retirement.

8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon
8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon

The giant retailer shines when it comes to these things, from basics to hard-to-find specialty goods.

Beware This Hidden Ingredient in Rotisserie Chicken
Beware This Hidden Ingredient in Rotisserie Chicken

Something foul may lurk in those delicious, ready-to-eat birds.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food
5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food

Anyone can take advantage of these resources.

5 States With the Worst Health Care for Retirees
5 States With the Worst Health Care for Retirees

All of these states are located in the same region of the nation.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

12 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday
12 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday

These items are steeply discounted — but the deals won’t last long.

6 Reasons You Should Stop Hiding Cash at Home
6 Reasons You Should Stop Hiding Cash at Home

Stashing money around the house is anything but harmless.

7 Big Purchases You Should Never Make
7 Big Purchases You Should Never Make

Sometimes a big-ticket purchase is nothing more than a big waste of money.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.