Medical identity theft is a serious issue that can lead to frightening scenarios, but taking precautions like monitoring statements can help protect you.
I’ve been writing and commenting on identity theft for many years and rarely has this angle ever come up but it’s one of the scariest ones that I’ve seen to date. Did you even know that you have more than one identity? Well, you do. Medical identity theft is defined as the illegal use and access of a patient’s personally identifiable information (PII) to obtain medical treatment, services or goods. Here are some scary scenarios that have actually happened to real people who have been victims of Medical Identity theft.
These and many other nightmare scenarios have been suffered by real people whose medical identities have been stolen. I recently visited the Dr. Juan show on Univision to talk about this and didn’t have enough time to cover all the points, so I wanted to elaborate but, first things first.
Just like your credit identity, your medical identity is not always in your hands. Doctors, hospitals and insurance companies have access to this information so a rogue or sloppy employee at any of them could jeopardize it but this is not something you control. What can you control? Imagine losing your wallet which has your insurance ID or Medicare card. What do you do? Of course, you report it to the police and cancel your credit cards but… do you remember to cancel your medical insurance ID and ask for a new one? Most people don’t but this is definitely something that you do control and that could prevent thieves from stealing your medical identity.Credit cards have gotten very good about detecting fraud and cancelling or putting your account on hold when they see any suspicious activity. I know this well, apparently I do a lot of suspicious things with my own identity since I do this very dubious activity called “travelling” and when I get to my destination, I pour gas, eat something and by the time I get to the hotel I get the infamous look from the hotel front desk employee accompanied by those terrifying words… “Sir, your credit card didn’t work, could you please try another one?” Of course, they say it in a low voice but trust me, everyone waiting in line heard them and gave you “the look” but I digress.The point is that the only time you really find out what’s been happening with your medical identity is when you get those medical or insurance company statements that many times have clearly printed in the front “This is not a bill”. What do I normally think when I see this? This must be trash… but it’s not. These are the boring non-statements you need to read carefully to make sure that there is nothing fishy going on. Here are some tips:
Read the statements from your doctors, hospitals and insurance companies as if they were credit card statements, go over transaction by transaction and don’t be afraid to call and ask if there is something you don’t understand.
You can’t be protected 100% but if you are careful, you can minimize the chances of having your medical identity stolen. These problems are like any disease, if caught early, there is a higher chance of success just be prepared to be patient, very patient. Which funny enough, that’s what they call us in the medical profession. I wonder why?