As technology progresses, identity theft is becoming an increasing problem in this country. If you don’t protect yourself, someone can steal your credit card number, bank passwords, social security number, and more.
However, there’s another type of identity theft that’s becoming more popular as well, and older Americans are one of the biggest targets. Medical ID theft is on the rise, and your health insurance card may be just as much at risk as your credit card.
What Is Medical ID Theft?
There are several things that a person can do with your health insurance information. They can go to the doctor under your name, or obtain prescription drugs, and stick you with the bill. They can also take more extreme measures, such as purchasing medical equipment or filing a false insurance claim—which you would then be held responsible for, when it was found out.
The number of cases of medical ID theft in 2016 went up by 21% over the previous year, and victims found themselves paying an average of $13,500 because of it. Furthermore, as stated above, many of the targets are seniors. They tend not to look at their credit as closely, particularly if their faculties are declining, and they rely on relatives and loved ones to take care of these things for them.
How can you protect yourself against this type of identity theft? Here are a few steps you can take.
Guard Your Personal Information
When you’re at the doctor’s office, do they ask to photocopy your driver’s license, credit card, or health insurance card? Don’t let them. In most cases it’s unnecessary for receiving care, and there are a number of more secure methods of confirming your identity for their files.
You may think nothing of the request, as you trust your doctor and the people he works with. However, if someone were to break into those files, they’d have everything they needed to steal your medical identity.
Keep a Hard Copy of Your Medical Records on Hand
The best way to prove that there’s an abnormality in your medical records is to keep careful track of the legitimate care you receive. Ask your healthcare provider for a hard copy of your medical and billing records, and keep them in a secure place.
Whenever you see the doctor, get a prescription filled, or have some other kind of health-related dealings, put the record of that interaction in the file with the rest. That way, if something shows up on your records that shouldn’t be there, you’ll have proof of the fraud, which you can show to your insurance company, the authorities, and anyone else who may need to see it.
Look Carefully at Your EOB Statement
If someone does steal your medical identity, it’s important to be able to catch the fraud as soon as possible. Your health insurance company periodically sends you an Explanation of Benefits statement—that is, a list of all the care you’ve received and how you paid for it. Look at these statements carefully whenever you receive them, and if you see anything you don’t recognize, call your insurance company immediately to ask them about it.
If you do find yourself a victim of medical ID theft, take action at once. Let your insurance provider know what happened right away, then file an identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission. The more quickly you get everything taken care of, the easier it will be to rectify the situation, and prevent some very expensive consequences.