Identity theft does not only happen when thieves steal your credit card number. Health insurance information is another way that criminals can steal your identity and file fraudulent claims with your insurance company, get prescription drugs, run up bills and ruin your credit.
Medical identity theft also exposes your most private and sensitive information to strangers with nefarious intentions.
Here are some tips to protect yourself from medical identity theft:
- Read your media and insurance statements regularly and completely. Carefully review Explanation of Benefits statements you receive from your insurance company to make sure you recognize the name of the provider, the date of service and the service provided. If you see a mistake, contact your insurance company or health plan provider immediately.
- Do not provide personal information online or by phone unless you have verified the contact on your insurance company’s website or on your insurance card. Online phishing scams and phone scams continue to be common methods for criminals to illicitly obtain identifying information. Don’t give personal information unless you initiated the call. Ignore emails offering free or discounted services if you provide your insurance plan number. If you decide to give information online, look for the lock icon on the browser’s status bar or a URL that begins “https:” The “s” is for “secure.”
- Call your insurer immediately if you receive a call or mailing from a debt collector about any medical debts you do not have or for medical care you did not receive.
- Keep paper and electronic copies of your medical and health insurance records in a safe place. Shred outdated insurance forms, prescription and physician statements and labels from prescription bottles before discarding them.
- Check your credit report for medical collection notices that you don’t recognize.
- Pay attention to any correspondence from your health plan stating you reached your benefit limit or denying you coverage because your medical records show a condition you do not have.
Take these steps if you believe you are the victim of medical identity theft:
- Get copies of your medical records and check for any errors. Contact each doctor, clinic, hospital, pharmacy, laboratory, health plan and location where a thief may have used your information.
- Get an accounting of disclosures from your insurer about what medical information your provider sent, when it sent the information, who received the information and why the information was sent.
- Ask for corrections. Write your health plan and medical providers and explain what information is not accurate. It is best to send copies of documents to support your claim. It is advisable to send this letter via certified mail with a return receipt so you can be assured the medical provider or insurance company received your correspondence.
Sources: The Federal Trade Commission; Personal Best Healthlines