Medical Identity Theft Can Be Deadly
Every time you have a medical procedure done, including routine checkups and treatment for minor issues, paperwork is generated. You should have copies of every single paper. This is one line of defense against medical identity theft.
Review your paperwork thoroughly for unauthorized or duplicate charges, mistakes with diagnoses, dates, names, anything that looks odd. Signs of medical identity theft include:
- Being billed for treatment or diagnostics you never received.
- Being told you've maxed out your coverage limit when you haven't.
- A collection agency claiming you owe a debt that you don't owe.
- Being denied coverage for a "pre-existing" condition that you don't have.
- Paperwork showing you saw a doctor you never did or were prescribed a drug you never were is a red flag.
- An e-mail from your provider that requests you reveal sensitive information like your Medicare number is a big red flag. The subject line may be urgent, such as "Your Medical Coverage May Be Terminated." Never click links inside these e-mails or fill out forms in them; instead contact your provider via phone. However, e-mails like these are scams; the thief knows if he sends 50,000 such e-mails out with his special software, a predictable percentage of recipients will "see" themselves in the message.
- A one-ring phone call may be a thief who just obtained your medical records to see if your number is legitimate. Never call back.
- If you suspect medical identity theft, keep strict records of all associated correspondence.
- Immediately obtain all records if you already haven't, including the "accounting of disclosures"; you have this legal right, even if you get flack from the provider. Contact the provider's patient representative or ombudsman for assistance.
- If you spot mistakes, even small, insist they be corrected.
Nevertheless, it's usually not easy to detect medical ID theft. So let's look at this in more detail:
- If a collection agency contacts you, request they provide information immediately; promptly contact your provider and carrier.
- Examine your credit report to see if it's plummeted due to unpaid medical bills. The three major credit reporting agencies issue the reports free.
- If your provider offers online access to your files, sign up for this service, then inspect it for mistakes.
- Request records of imaging procedures.
- If no online access is available, have your doctor read the results or send a snail mail copy.
Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to BestIDTheftCompanys.com discussing identity theft prevention.
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