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Guest Post by Kayla MatthewsIdentity theft is a concept we're all familiar with. Commercials on every channel advertise services that can protect you from this type of theft and help you recover if someone steals your identity. What these services don't focus on is medical identity theft, which is becoming more common because it's easier and more lucrative than stealing social security numbers or credit cards. Why is medical identity theft so popular? First, it has to do with the information itself. You can't just cancel your medical history like you can with a stolen credit card. Even if you detect theft, the thief can continue to utilize the data for a longer period. The switch to digital medical data storage has actually made it easier for hackers to steal privileged information, especially if the source isn't familiar with the kind of security measures that could help to keep that data safe. Finally, it's all about the numbers. Not everyone has a credit card or the kind of credit that's worthwhile for identity thieves. Everyone, from the youngest infant to the oldest retiree, has a medical history, which means the potential theft pool is much wider. With this in mind, what are the most common kinds of medical ID theft? 1. Free treatment scams Thieves might use your medical information to receive treatment because they don't have or can't afford their own insurance policies. While this may seem innocent enough, it's still a type of insurance fraud and could cause you to lose your health coverage, increase your premiums, or even ruin your credit history. Warning signs of free treatment scams may include the following: Inaccuracies in your medical records Denied coverage because of preexisting conditions you don't have Sudden changes or increases in insurance premiums False records that could become dangerous if doctors are basing your treatments on them Negative impacts on your credit history as the thieves run up huge hospital bills on your credit Loss of healthcare coverage You might also encounter individuals attempting to steal your medical information by offering you free treatment opportunities. Do not provide your personal information over the phone to anyone, especially things like your social security number or other identifying data that could help the criminal steal your medical records. 2. Prescription drug theft Medical ID thieves might not need medical treatment, but that won't stop them from making off with your protected information. Sometimes, they'll use your medical history to obtain prescription drugs they'll either take themselves or sell on the black market to make even more money. Many of the warning signs for this specific type of theft are similar to the free treatment scams. One thing that is different is that you may find it harder to obtain any controlled substances you take if your medical records indicate that you've already received them — especially with new laws restricting opioid use in the face of the epidemic that's gripping the country. 3. Fraudulent treatment invoicing The third most common medical identity theft is becoming more common every year, so it's important to recognize the warning signs of each type of theft and know how to protect yourself. This type of medical ID theft is invoicing for fraudulent treatments. This one is even more nefarious than other methods because medical professionals may be involved in the theft in exchange for a portion of the profits. This type of medical ID theft is often difficult to detect until it comes back to bite you. You may find yourself paying for treatments you never received, or maxing out your healthcare coverage for the year when you need it most. How can you avoid medical ID theft? What steps can you take to avoid a threat like medical ID theft? To start, pay close attention to the Explanation of Benefits that you receive from your insurance company. Don't just glance over it — examine it closely to make sure that everything on your EoB is something you've received. If you see something that looks wrong, call your insurance provider immediately. At the end of the year, you can request a list of benefits paid throughout the previous calendar year from your insurer. Go over this, as well as your credit report to ensure that there isn't anything amiss. Medical bills will show up on your annual credit report, even if you're not the one who received the treatment. The bottom line If you suspect that someone has stolen your medical information, the first thing you should do is contact a healthcare lawyer to find out what your options are. They'll have the experience and the knowledge to walk you through every step of the process, from putting a freeze on your credit to reclaiming your medical history. If you are a victim of medical identity theft, file a report with both the police and the Federal Trade Commission. Kayla Matthews, a tech and security journalist, has written articles for sites including WIRED, Information Age, Security Boulevard, and the National Cyber Security Alliance. To see more of her work, follow her on Twitter @KaylaEMatthews or check out her tech blog, Productivity Bytes.
Over the past few years, identity theft has become increasingly more complex as several different types of identity theft have surfaced. The 2017 Identity Fraud Study conducted by Javelin Strategy & Research showed that the number of identity theft victims hit an all-time high of 15.4 million in 2016. Basically, the increase in the different types of identity theft and the advancement of technology has led to a higher number of identity theft victims. Knowing which types of identity theft you should be looking out for and taking precautions can greatly decrease your risk of being affected. Here are the top two types of identity theft that experts say you should be aware of: Medical Identity Theft Medical identity theft is one of the more recent types of identity theft. Identity theft and scam expert, author of "The Truth About Avoiding Scams," and founder of Scamicide.com, Steven Weisman, said that "while there are so many variations of identity theft, by far the most dangerous is medical identity theft where your medical insurance information is stolen and then used by the identity thief or people to whom the identity thief sells this information." Weisman explained that "this type of identity theft is potentially deadly because the medical information of the identity thief can be commingled with the medical information of the identity theft victim's medical reports. This can potentially result in the identity theft victim receiving a blood transfusion of the wrong blood type or other improper treatment." The Fifth Annual Study on Medical Identity Theft estimated that 2.32 million Americans have been victimized by medical identity theft. Since the study was released, the number of medical identity theft victims has continued to rise. Concerning protection, Weisman warns "the best thing you can do to protect yourself from this type of identity theft is to closely guard your medical insurance information." He suggests that people "carefully review their Explanation of Benefits (EOB) when they receive it from their health insurer after their medical insurance has been used in order to quickly recognize that there is a problem." In order to report medical identity theft, Weisman said "the best thing to do is to report this to your insurance company and your medical care provider immediately." He also warned that people should "be particularly wary of offers of 'free' medical services or equipment if you merely provide your insurance number or Medicare number. These can often lead to fraud or identity theft." Child Identity Theft Not only can identity theft ruin your life, but it can also ruin your child's life. Information security consultant and Certified Identity Theft Risk Management Specialist, Rob Douglas, said that "other than medical identity theft, one of the most dangerous types of identity theft is child identity theft." Douglas explained that "the danger lies in the fact that this form of identity theft often goes undetected until the child is approaching adulthood and begins to engage in credit transactions. Those transactions—ranging from opening a cellphone account to applying for student loans—may be delayed or denied because of the damage that has been done to the victim’s credit score by the criminal who stole the child’s sensitive personal information years earlier. This damage can be compounded by the number of previously undetected fraudulent accounts and the length of time that has passed, making repair and restoration of the credit file and score a cumbersome process." The 2012 Child Identity Fraud Report conducted by Javelin Strategy & Research proved that at least one child within 1 of 40 households has had personal information compromised. Although many people blame child identity theft on stereotypical identity theft criminals, relatives are often the ones to blame as well. Douglas explained "another tragic reality is that a significant percentage of child identity theft is committed by a parent or other relative of the child who has access to the child’s Social Security number and other sensitive personal information that can be used to assume the child’s identity for criminal purposes." In regards to protection from child identity theft, Douglas suggested that "parents should place a security freeze on their child’s credit file (if one exists) at each of the four major credit bureaus—Equifax, TransUnion, Experian, and Innovis. The legal right to place a security freeze on a child’s credit file is determined on a state-by-state basis with more states every year passing legislation enabling this important security feature. Additionally, parents should be on the lookout for mail (or other communications) addressed to a child that may indicate that credit accounts have been opened in the child’s name or that the child’s name is appearing on mailing lists." If you believe your child's identity has been compromised,Douglas recommends you follow these steps. Contact the police in order to create an official report Go to www.IdentityTheft.gov/steps for instructions and suggestions from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission When on the website mentioned above, Douglas suggests that you scroll down to "Special Forms of Identity Theft" and click on "Child Identity Theft" Additional Precaution If you are worried about any type of identity theft, follow the tips provided above and consider hiring a professional identity theft company. The best identity theft companies will monitor your information 24/7, provide immediate notifications if there is any suspicious or fraudulent activity, and will help you develop a recovery plan if your identity is stolen.
Identity theft has become increasingly more common in recent years. When people hear the term "identity theft", the image of someone sitting in a dark basement surrounded by computers might come to mind. Unfortunately, the majority of identity theft criminals operate in significantly more subtle circumstances, making them very difficult to locate. Although general identity theft has been occurring for quite some time, a more recent category of identity theft has brought an entirely different level of worry to the public: medical identity theft. What Medical Identity Theft Really Is Medical identity theft is a specific category of identity theft crime that involves the stealing of a name and/or health insurance numbers in order to obtain prescription drugs, use the victim’s insurance provider to file claims, get appointments with doctors, or receive other health-related care. Although medical identity theft has been a major problem in the past few years, it continues to be the form of identity theft that many people still don’t know about. Identity theft and scam expert Rob Douglas explained that "of the many types of identity theft, medical identity theft poses the greatest risk to the physical safety of victims." He also went on to say that "once a medical identity thief fraudulently obtains healthcare in your name, and that treatment becomes part of your electronic healthcare record, your healthcare may be placed in jeopardy. After all, your medical history, current, and future diagnoses, and treatment could be compromised because of the treatment the identity thief received." Why the Medical Field Is Targeted There are a few reasons behind why identity theft criminals are focusing in on the medical field: One reason corresponds with the lifespan of the crime itself. Stolen medical data is significantly more difficult to retrieve or cancel than financial data. For example, if a person’s medical records are stolen, the victim cannot simply put a hold on or cancel their medical history like they can with a credit card. Therefore, the identity theft criminal can use/abuse the stolen information for a longer period of time. Another reason why medical identity theft has risen in popularity is due to the medical field’s relatively recent action of switching to digital storage of health information. Medical organizations began digitalization just a few years ago, which ultimately puts the medical field behind in setting up reliable security measures. This lack of digital experience allows the medical field to be an easier target for medical identity theft hackers. The third motivation behind medical identity theft lies with the vast amount of people that can be targeted through medical institutions. Millions of people’s information can be found in medical databases, which makes the medical field a definite target. Basically, the more people seek health care, the more information there is to be stolen. Health care data greatly outnumbers that of financial data. How to Avoid Being the Victim Knowing how to avoid identity theft, in general, can save someone from unnecessary trouble, therefore, understanding what to do in order to avoid medical identity theft can be even more worthwhile as the repercussions of medical identity theft can be more devastating than regular identity theft. Regularly monitor your medical records and know how to look for errors or false information. Be cautious with whom you share your health information. Strive to only give your medical information to trusted medical professionals. Try to refrain from using free, public wifi services. If you do use public wifi, do not access any private information, especially medical data. Be wary of free medical services/treatments as they can be a part of a medical identity theft scam. Contact insurers and providers regarding health care charges and bills that were not received. It’s a good habit to do this even if your insurance covers procedures/medical visits. In addition, Douglas recommends that you "carefully review any letter or document you receive from healthcare providers, facilities, and insurers to be certain the information is accurate and that there are no billings for treatments you didn't receive." He also suggests that you "ask your healthcare providers to not use your Social Security number as your personal identifier on their records." Douglas explained that "by restricting who has your SSN and insurance account numbers, you can lessen the risk of medical identity theft." What to Keep in Mind Medical identity theft is a frightening reality that affects millions of people. Although it may seem impossible to avoid, simply being aware that medical identity theft exists can put you ahead of the game. Catching and reporting medical errors/red flags early on can save you from disastrous consequences. Online resources can also save you from becoming just another name on the long list of medical identity theft victims by helping you locate a reliable identity theft company to monitor your personal information.