07 Oct Medical Identity Theft a Growing Problem
By now, almost everyone has heard about “identity theft,” when a crook gets hold of your Social Security number and other personal information, then uses that information to obtain credit that will eventually result in unpaid bills in your name. More recently, a new form of identity theft is becoming more common – medical identity theft.
In a medical identity theft scenario, a crook obtains your Social Security number, birth date and other personal information by accessing your medical records. In some cases, the crook has an accomplice who works in a hospital, and in other cases, the theif accesses records electronically. Your stolen identity may then be sold on the black market to an uninsured person in need of medical care. In other cases, the identity thief may actually set up a bogus clinic and process fake charges with insurance companies, Medicare or Medicaid.
Because medical billing procedures are not uniform or timely, you may not realize that your identity has been stolen for several months – enough time for the identity thieft to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars, and to jeopardize your access to medical care.
At this point there are no comprehensive federal laws designed to protect consumers against medical identity theft. Your best defense is to safeguard your personal identification when in the hospital and to be very careful in giving it out. Open those notices that come after your hospital stay – if you spot references to procedures or hospital stays that don’t look familiar, contact the provider and your insurer immediately. Don’t hesitate to ask your insurance company for an annual summary of bills paid on your behalf and keep your own file containing your own medical records.
Jonathan Ginsberg, Esq.
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