Medical Identity Theft Can Be a Complex Puzzle—9 Steps to Help Better Protect Yourself and Your Family

According to reports, the theft of personal medical information is increasing, despite privacy laws that are intended to safeguard your protected health information. Medical identity theft can disrupt the victim’s life, damage their credit rating, and could even be life-threatening if the wrong diagnosis or medications end up in the victim’s medical records. Learn these nine steps to better protect yourself and your family from medical identity theft.

What Is Medical Identity Theft?

Medical identity theft is the illegal use of another person’s information to attempt to get medical treatment, services, or goods. The criminal may steal the victim’s date of birth, address, Social Security number, healthcare identification number, as well as medical data such as past and present health conditions, prescriptions, and online medical account credentials.

What can a criminal do with another person’s medical information? More than you may think.

A thief can use the victim’s stolen information to visit a doctor, file fraudulent insurance claims, obtain prescription drugs for the purpose of selling them on the black market, or purchase costly medical services.

Medical Identity Theft Can Have a Devastating Impact on Its Victims

Although many people tend to worry about the misuse of their credit or financial accounts, medical identity theft can actually be more costly to victims than other types of identity theft. Federal law generally limits a consumer’s liability for fraudulent credit card charges to $50, but victims of medical identity theft often don’t have similar protections.

Identity thieves may rack up large hospital bills in the victim’s name and then disappear, leaving the victim completely unaware until they are contacted by creditors. The time it takes to resolve the dispute may negatively impact the victim’s credit rating and even affect future insurance costs.

According to one report, damage from medical identity theft can endure for years, with some victims suffering long-term consequences of aggressive medical debt collection or facing prosecution because thieves used their identities to purchase stockpiles of prescription drugs.

If the thief’s medical information ends up in the victim’s electronic health record, the victim’s health could be at risk.

Potential Signs of Medical Identity Theft

Steps to Better Protect Yourself from Medical Identity Theft

If You Suspect a Problem 

In addition, consider filing a police report and sending copies to your medical providers, insurers, and the three nationwide credit bureaus (Equifax®, TransUnion®, and Experian®). It may help protect you if an identity thief starts using your personal information for fraud.