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What is medical identity theft and how to protect against it

Alina BÎZGĂ

July 27, 2022

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What is medical identity theft and how to protect against it

Medical identity theft refers to the fraudulent use of an individual’s personally identifiable information (PII) and protected health information (PHI) including name, Social Security or health insurance numbers to receive medical treatment, devices,  prescriptions or other health benefits. This can include submitting fraudulent claims to health insurance companies for financial compensation.

Medical identity theft is more common than you think

According to the FTC Consumer Sentinel Network, 7,593 individuals filed identity theft reports regarding medical services between April and June 2022. Given the increase in security incidents at healthcare providers in the past year, the number of victims will surely rise.

Since June 2022, at least 100 security incidents hit healthcare providers in the US, exposing the data of over 8.4 million individuals, according to the HIPAA Breach Reporting Tool.

Medical identity theft doesn’t just affect individuals financially (ruining their credit) -- it can also bring serious health consequences. According to a study conducted by the Ponemon Institute, 20% of victims suffered delayed care, misdiagnosis and mistreatment due to incorrect information found in their medical records.

Common signs of medical identity theft:

  • You get a bill for a medical service you did not receive
  • You’re contacted by a debt collector about medical debt you don’t owe
  • You see medical collection notices you don’t recognize on your credit report
  • You notice false listings of office visits or treatments in your medical records
  • You’re denied insurance or notified that you’ve reached your benefits limit because your medical records show a condition you don’t have

How to protect your medical information

Identity thieves can rack up thousands of dollars in medical bills before victims become aware of the crime. The damages suffered by victims can take years to correct, with some individuals even facing legal prosecution because their identity was used to purchase caches of prescription drugs.

Here are some steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim:

  • Never share personal or health information with people you don’t know via email, text or any other form of correspondence. Any requests to provide the information that are accompanied by threats are made by fraudsters
  • Shred old documents that hold your personal info before throwing them in the trash
  • Check your medical records at often as possible and always review notices you received from healthcare providers for unusual activity
  • Keep copies of medical records in a safe place
  • Monitor your credit and health insurance for any suspicious activity and report any irregularities to your financial and healthcare provider

Medical identity theft is harder to detect than regular financial fraud. Victims can go on for months before realizing they’ve been compromised. As an added protection, check out Bitdefender Identity Theft Protection plans to help you thwart identity thieves before they can ruin your credit score and deplete your medical plan. Our plans include comprehensive identity theft protection features including:

  • Continuous monitoring of your identity to ensure that only you and your family use your medical benefits
  • 24/7 data breach monitoring and fraud alerts
  • Credit monitoring and lost wallet assistance
  • Expert assistance and access to your dedicated resolution specialist in case of compromise
  • Up to $2 million in identity theft insurance to help you cover legal fees and other costs for fixing your medical records and identity

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