More than 11.5 million people were victims of identity fraud last year, according to the U.S. Justice Department, and we’ve gotten used to the news stories about data bases of retail chains corrupted by hackers. There’s a new kid on the block. Increasingly, Americans are becoming victims of medical identity theft, a crime that no one had even imagined before 2008.
“It’s very difficult to prevent,” says Karen Barney, with the non-profit organization ID Theft Resource Center. Barney says medical identity theft is a crime for which you can minimize your risk, you can protect yourself, you can be proactive, but you can’t really prevent. You only find out after the fact that you were vulnerable. Your medical identity is more important, Barney says, than your financial identity, because the impact of medical identity theft can be fatal. To learn more about medical identity theft, Barney recommends watching a video her organization has created as a public information tool.
Among the list of medical establishments who were victimized by some form of theft, breaching or hacking in the past month were Baylor Regional Medical Center in Plano, and Baylor All Saint Center in Ft. Worth (no patient records were compromised).
Karen Barney says crooks steal medical records to get access to medical services, to get prescription drugs, and to defraud either government benefit programs such as Medicare and Medicaid or private insurers.
“The threats to individuals include contamination of their health records with erroneous information including, among others items, blood type, serious health conditions, and prescription drugs. Fraud losses in the healthcare system are astronomical and in most cases are facilitated by a stolen medical identity of an individual or a provider,” states the Medical Identity Fraud Alliance, the first public/private sector-coordinated effort to address the problem of and find solutions to medical identity theft, in their white paper titled “The Growing Threat of Medical Identity Fraud: A Call to Action.”
The greatest threat to your life is if someone uses your medical identity to have treatment or medical procedures, because that becomes a part of your medical record. In one case authorities were called to remove children dome the home after someone used stolen medical records and gave birth to a drug-addicted newborn.
If you become the victim of medical identity theft, you can call the ID Theft Resource Center at 888-400-5530 for assistance.