Every three seconds another American becomes a victim of identity theft.  A survey by the Bureau of Justice Statistics revealed that 1 in 4 Americans, almost 17million people, were the targets or victims of identity theft in 2012.  But what exactly is identity theft? 

Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal identifying information (PII) without your consent.  Examples of PII are your name, date of birth, address, social security number, or credit card number.  The thief might use all of your information in an attempt to become you or use only part of your information to create a “synthetic” identity. 

But what could an identity thief do with your PII?  Plenty!

While most Americans are familiar with financial identity theft, think credit cards or bank accounts, very few are familiar with medical identity theft.  Medical identity theft occurs when a thief uses your PII, including your health insurance and/or Medicare, to obtain medical services and/or products or to obtain health insurance.  These all have the potential of destroying your credit rating.  When the bills are not paid it is reported on your credit report.  But medical identity theft is more than a financial risk.  It could be life threatening.   

Every time an identity thief visits a doctor the thief’s symptoms, test results, and blood type are recorded in a medical record.  But who’s medical record? When a thief uses your identity the information now becomes part of YOUR permanent medical record.  That’s right – YOUR permanent medical record.  When your doctor is attempting to make a diagnosis he will examine your medical history which includes the information from the identity thief.   This could lead to misdiagnosis or mistreatment. 

Imagine you are traveling through a new town and end up in a car accident.  You are unconscious and are rushed to the hospital.  You are losing blood fast and require a transfusion.  The nurse finds your wallet, pulls out your driver’s license and enters your information into the computer.  The nurse locates your medical record which lists your medical history, your blood type and your allergies.  However the medical record is NOT yours.  It belongs to the person that stole your identity and has been using it for years.  Unfortunately the thief does not have the same blood type as you, he is not a diabetic and he is not allergic to latex.  But you are.  I don’t need to continue the story.  You get my point. 

So what can you do? 

  1. Review the explanation of benefits (EOB) you receive from your insurance company.  Report any discrepancies immediately to the insurance company. 
  2. Ask for a copy of your medical record from each of your providers.  They will most likely charge you for this but it is worth it.  Review the record and report any discrepancies immediately to the provider.
  3. Monitor your credit reports (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax).  Look for collection accounts, past due accounts or credit accounts that are not yours.  Report any discrepancies to the corresponding credit bureau immediately.
  4. Protect your health insurance information as you would your social security number.  Only share this information with trusted providers.  Ask to review their privacy policy. 
  5. Do not carry your Medicare card in your wallet.  Your social security number is listed on your Medicare card.  Only carry it when you are going to an appointment or when you know you will need it. 
  6. Beware of “free” medical services, products or treatments.  These are often used to steal your information. 
  7. Do not disclose your information, including your insurance information, to unsolicited telephone calls, emails, or offers by mail.  These are attempts to steal your information. 

Awareness and swift action are your best defense against medical identity theft.  If something just doesn’t feel right or if the hair on the back of your neck is standing on end take action.  Otherwise you are putting your personal health and your financial health at risk. 

If you have questions or are a victim of medical identity theft contact the Kerskie Group, Inc.    Carrie Kerskie and her team of Certified Identity Theft Investigators™ will do the work on your behalf to restore your medical identity.  Call 239-435-9111 and ask to speak to a Certified Identity Theft Investigator. 

Carrie Kerskie is the president of the Kerskie Group and founder of the Association of Certified Identity Theft Investigators, and highly sought-after speaker, trainer and consultant specializing in identity theft restoration, data privacy and intellectual property investigations. She is also the author of the book, Your Public Identity; Because Nothing is Private Anymore. You can read more about Carrie and what she does at her website, http://carriekerskie.com/.