When you hear â€˜identity theft,â€™ what comes to mind first? Your credit card or your health insurance card?
The truth is both should come to mind. In 2015 alone, one-third of Americans became vulnerable to medical identity theft because of health care data breaches.
Why steal someoneâ€™s medical information? Itâ€™s the gateway for all sorts of fraud including stealing prescription medications and medical services. People often donâ€™t know theyâ€™ve been victims of medical identity theft until a collections agency demands payment for unpaid medical bills.
Everyone, from hospital staff to insurance agencies to individuals, needs to focus on protecting health care information. You can do a lot to keep your medical identity safe by developing a few good habits.
Guard Your Health Care Information as Closely as You Guard Your Bank Information
This requires a shift in mindset. Most of us have been trained to protect our financial information since the first time we opened a bank account. We know to keep our PINs secret and be careful about where we use our credit cards.
Health care information is becoming just as valuable as credit card information. Shred any unneeded documents and donâ€™t leave your insurance cards lying around.
Be Smart Online
Make sure youâ€™re on a secure network when accessing health information in public places. Do you log in to your bank account at a coffee shop? Probably not. Avoid logging into your health insurance account too.
Youâ€™ve heard it before, but it bears repeating: create unique, foolproof passwords for your online accounts.
Be Careful on Social Media
Why worry about updating your friends about a medical condition on Facebook? A con artist could use that info to steal services that wonâ€™t raise an alarm with your insurer.
For example, if they know youâ€™re experiencing a painful condition that requires specific drugs, they could use that information to obtain a prescription in your name.
Sound unlikely? Youâ€™d be surprised how much useful information can be gleaned from social media accounts.
Read Your Explanation of Benefits Letters (EOBs)
Does settling down with a cup of tea and reading your EOB fill your heart with warmth? Probably not. But discovering medical fraud before it’s too late is worth it.
EOBs are important and if you become familiar with their layout, it wonâ€™t take long to read through them. What are you looking for? Any medical services you donâ€™t recognize even if you donâ€™t owe money. If you find unrecognizable services, call your insurer immediately.
Check Your Credit Report
Could your credit report tip you off to medical identity theft? Absolutely. If your information has been stolen, your credit report could inform you by showing unpaid medical bills.
Only Provide Medical Information When Itâ€™s Necessary
Is a telemarketer asking for heath information? Donâ€™t give information out and beware of fraud. Unfortunately, most medical fraud is committed by people known to the victims. Protect yourself by keeping your medical information and prescriptions tucked away rather than leaving them out where anyone can see them.
Data Breaches Happen Now What?
If you get a breach notification, read the letter and follow instructions. Companies will offer tips for protecting yourself and often offer services for free.
Just like you keep your banking information secure, donâ€™t forget to keep watch on your health care information. If you suspect fraud activity, contact your insurer right away.