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How to Protect Against Medical Identity Theft

May 2, 2018
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While we’ve become accustomed to hearing about hacking of personal data at large retailers, the medical industry is fast becoming the industry at the highest risk of data hacking — 91% of healthcare organizations experienced a data breach in the past two years (Source: Forbes, May 29, 2015).

The consequences of these data breaches can range from financial to medical fraud. Medical records typically contain payment information such as credit card numbers, but also carry data like Social Security numbers and insurance information, which can enable a criminal to obtain medical services and payments under another’s identity.

There are several reasons the healthcare industry has become a new target for hackers. First, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and the Affordable Care Act in 2010 required health care organizations to digitize their health information. Second, because most information was previously held in hard copy form, the healthcare industry has not been as savvy about data protection. These two things opened up a whole new world for cybercriminals. Finally, healthcare information commands a much higher price on the black market. An FBI report shows that health insurance information has a $60 to $70 price tag compared to $1 for a Social Security number (Source: Forbes, May 29, 2015).

Cybercriminals profit from healthcare data by getting healthcare for themselves or selling it to someone who is uninsured and in need of medical care. But the big profit comes from private health insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid fraud. For example, for every Medicare or Medicaid number stolen, individuals can bill the government for services and equipment as well as prescription medicines.

How to Protect Your Information

While the healthcare industry is making strides in data protection, you should be diligent about protecting your medical information. Following are some steps you can take:

  • Ask your physician for a copy of your medical records so you can review them for accuracy. You’ll want to make sure your medical history, prescribed treatments, allergies, blood type, etc., are accurate, so that if you are in an emergency situation, you’re not receiving treatment that could be detrimental.
  • Take time to review the Explanation of Benefits you receive from your insurance company. This is the best document to review to uncover medical fraud.
  • If your physician or a hospital is asking you to provide your Social Security number, find out why they need it and make sure it is absolutely necessary.
  • Monitor your credit report on a regular basis to ensure that you don’t see activity that is the result of stolen payment information.
  • Consider a medical identity monitoring service, which will identify all healthcare transactions on your account.
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