You must have heard about financial identity theft and credit card fraud as the inevitable result. No doubt, financial identity theft hurts your wallet and may ruin your financial standing completely. It will take years to restore your credit records and get back on track of financial health.
However, while financial ID, in most cases, can do you no more harm than hitting your credit history, a new type of ID crime can actually kill you. We are talking about medical identity theft that is a fastest growing type of ID theft, hurting both patients and hospitals.
Identity thieves' methods are becoming more and more sophisticated and no signatures, virtual card numbers, non-swipe technology or photo identification on your credit card seem to be a powerful enough protective tool. If you bar the way to one source of information, an identity thief will find another to continue his fraudulent activity.
Recently, this new source has become one's medical records which are used for multi-purpose ID crime. Of course, the prime things criminals are after are surgery, prescription drugs and medical insurance benefits that allow them to get millions of dollars in false medical claims.
That is not all, however. As you know, access to medical care costs money, and the criminal uses the patient's debit and credit card accounts to make payments. It is not that difficult to guess what it threatens - thousands of unpaid credit card bills and other health-related charges, unmanageable credit debt and damaged credit history.
However, while damages related to credit cards and insurance companies' expenses are quite curable, the fraudulent use of your health care records and medical history may lead to fatal case. Under the credit card protection, all the debts incurred by the criminal will be written off, hospitals and insurance companies will also be forced to release you from the liability to make up for the expenses.
But who will guard you from the fatal medical consequences that are harder or impossible to correct? While using your social security number and health insurance identification to get health care, the ID thief may (and does) have his/her own medical records included into your file. It my lead to, say, transfusion of the wrong blood type, which is life threatening. Who will protect you then?
Your personal medical data has become so easily exposed to ID thieves due to, much as ridiculous it may sound, technological progress. Yes, as hospitals give up paper medical records in favor of electronic storage, it is becoming ever so easy for criminals to gain access to them; and then you are faced with fatal medical errors to correct on your own.
The only effective method to avoid the fatal consequences of medical ID theft is to protect yourself:
- Systematically examine your medical records;
- Shred all the healthcare and insurance documentation that you don't need;
- Restrict access to all ID documentation, be it your SSN, driver's license or credit card account number. A smart ID thief can use your credit card information to access your medical records and vice-versa.
- Make sure your provider is obliged to let you know in case your medial data has been breached.
- See to it that your provider complies with health privacy laws that restrict communications about patient's health care records to third parties.
Just like it happens with a credit card, you may not know about your ID stolen until you are notified of great outstanding balances, lowered credit scores or until you suffer from fatal medical errors. So, watch your medical records file and make sure that your doctor only has access to it.