Every 2 seconds, an identity is stolen in the U.S. Without warning, 1 out of 15 individuals will have their world turned upside down. One of the fastest growing areas of identity theft (and one of the most serious) involves medical identity theft. Once individuals obtain specific personal identifying information, or healthcare-related data, a fraudulent attempt may be made to access medical services or other health benefits. This creates a heavy financial burden for the healthcare system and could even jeopardize patient health and treatment.
5 Alarming Facts About Medical Identity Theft
Sadly, according to the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, half of medical id theft victims know the person involved. Medical identity theft may be the most serious of all types of identity theft if you consider the following:
The average cost of healthcare fraud through identity theft, per incident is $20,663. While healthcare providers and facilities may not hold you accountable directly for fraudulent medical bills, the healthcare system as a whole must absorb each loss, passing it along to the patient. This results in higher medical costs overall in the form of treatment rates and raised insurance premiums.
Your insurance company, because of fraudulent use of your healthcare account could deny you critical medical attention. Your medical records kept by healthcare providers and insurance companies reflect the entire history of every doctor visit and treatment you receive. If another individual gets medical care under your Social Security Number or healthcare subscriber number, it could take years to separate your two medical files. In the mean time, insurance companies may not pay for necessary treatment or procedures needed by you. Companies may also raise your insurance premiums based on inaccurate or erroneous information as a result of medical identity theft.
Your doctors and other medical professionals may get a confusing or unclear picture of your actual medical health history. Because of this, you could get the wrong diagnosis or treatment based on inaccuracies in your medical files.
Unpaid bills for fraudulent charges from healthcare facilities, physicians, or medical laboratories could negatively affect your credit history. While medical fraud specialists from your health insurance provider may work to untangle the mess that identity theft has created and offer education on how to prevent identity theft in the future, you may not be able to make necessary purchases or open lines of credit based on your corrupted credit files. While the best identity protector is you, currently only about 43% of patients surveyed by the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud ever check their medical histories to verify the accuracy of information contained within it. Because of this, without identity protection medical identity theft could go undetected for an extended period of time.
Complete identity protection is not provided by the healthcare industry. In fact, the majority of identity theft cases are the result of individuals with access to healthcare information sharing or selling Social Security Numbers or healthcare subscriber numbers for financial gain. While 80% of medical records facilities report identity theft through at least some form of a data breach in the past, the losses related to these occurrences pale in comparison to the numbers associated with ID theft by healthcare workers.
In addition to the negative financial impact placed on the healthcare system, Identity theft in general can wreak havoc with your credit score.
If You’ve Been a Victim, Follow 6 Steps To Improve Credit Scores Fast
Inaccuracies and discrepancies in consumer credit reports contribute significantly to lower credit scores. To remove old or erroneous credit report entries to fix credit score numbers you must do the following:
Get Credit Score-Order one credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian, http://www.usa.gov/topics/money/credit/credit-reports/bureaus-scoring.shtml.
Identify Errors-Highlight any inaccuracies such as accounts listed in your name that don’t belong to you, late payments reported by creditors that were in fact paid on time, and repossessions, foreclosures, or charge-offs that are either not yours, or reported prematurely as such before you made alternate payment agreements with the lender. Look for any old accounts or information that has reached the statute of limitations for reporting as well.
Dispute Inaccuracies-Contact each of the credit reporting agencies and/or lenders to formally dispute aged or erroneous information. This can be done in writing, by telephone, or via the Internet in most cases.
Get My Credit Score-Once you have received notification from each of the credit bureaus that inaccurate entries have been corrected, recheck your credit reports to ensure that negative items have in fact, been removed. (Credit bureaus should supply you with current credit reports free of charge since errors in credit reporting were found.)
Compare Scores-Your credit scores obtained from each of the three credit bureaus should now reflect the new information and be higher than previously reported.
Monitor My Free Credit Score-Continue to monitor your credit reports regularly to ensure your scores are not adversely affected by inaccurate derogatory information.
Whether you’ve been the victim of a major corporate data breach, or have had your personal identifying information compromised in some way, you’re not alone. Roughly 60 million Americans share your experience and many have faced challenges restoring credit reports and raising credit scores, in the aftermath. The more you know about identity theft, how thieves use your personal information, and the remedies available to correct inaccuracies, the better your financial future.