The jeopardies of identity theft are well known to a good number of people, perhaps you included! Right, imagine a situation where someone who has access to some of your personal info, such as Social Security Number, uses it to access your cash or credit. Isn’t that irritating?
To me, the mere thought of it comes with massive headaches and tantrums, at the very least. You worked for the money right? Therefore any cent that disappears into nothingness drives you crazy. Worse still, such criminals have come up with several techniques to access your information. There are many forms of identity theft you would be surprise to find out about, nonetheless, there’s one kind that’s becoming rampant today. Perhaps you have heard of medical identity theft, or maybe you haven’t, either way the bottom line stays thick and clear; you ran the risk of losing huge sums of dollars. Be on the look!
In response to the situation, the Federal Trade Commission has sounded an alarm to all consumers about this mounting danger. A statement from the commission about medical identity theft goes, “A thief may use your name or health insurance numbers to see a doctor, get prescription drugs, file claims with your insurance provider, or get other care. If the thief’s health information is mixed with yours, your treatment, insurance and payment records, and credit report may be affected.”
Basically, from the above statement anyone receiving medical insurance can learn a lot, and a wise folk need not too many words to tell what the consequences of medical identity theft would add up to.
An emergent problem
Well, just in case the mention of it never sounded much of an issue to you, here’s how rapidly medical identity theft is growing. A Report from the Medical Identity Fraud Alliance (MIFA) – a commission set up to deal with medical identity scam- shows that approximately 2.3 million Americans had fallen victims of the fraud by 2014, a rise of 22% over 2013.
Let’s face it, that’s a large number, and at that fast rate, something’s got to be done.
As if not enough the MIFA with the help of Ponemon Institute, has surveyed Americans and realized that among all victims of medical identity theft, up to 65%, about 2/3, ended up parting with averagely $13,500 to sort out the issues. Additionally, the victims wasted a lot of time, say about 200 hours trying to their sort out their cases.
Is the pinch getting too unbearable? If yes, I must say I’m sorry to mention that experts at MIFA also revealed that out of all the victims who made an effort to straighten matters out in the event of a fraud, only 10% reached an absolutely satisfactory conclusion of the case. And while almost 1/5 of victims underwent a fall in their credit score, about 1/3 completely lost their health insurance.
Notion has it that part of the problem most likely arises from security breaches and cyber-attacks at chief corporations in which thousands or millions of consumer data is stolen at once as was seen at Anthem (America’s 2nd largest health insurer), and even more, only just some time ago in Premera Blue Cross in Washington State.
The Premera Blue Cross’ fraud is said to have affected 11 million consumers, and recently a report explained that “the invaders may have gained access to claims info, including clinical data, along with banking account numbers, birth dates, Social Security numbers and other personal information in an fraud that began in May 2014, and was shockingly uncovered on January 29 of this year.”
Beginning to get scared, right? Well, Anthem on the other hand believes that medical data was never stolen in its breach, yet the figures shoot to a scaring 80 million victims.
How to stay safe – 3 key tips that will keep you safe
Prevention is better than cure, it goes without mentioning. As luck would have it, if you are already trembling, you are not completely helpless in this situation. Keep calm and spare me a few seconds to take you through some precautions that will reduce your chances of falling a victim.
- Make sure your credit reports are regularly checked for any odd unpaid bills
It is important to check your credit reports as there might be strange bills that might have been generated by an identity thief. Did you know that you are entitled to a single free copy of your credit report every year from each of the three core reporting departments? To be safe, make sure you have your copies. In order to get your mathematics right, ensure you space out all the three annual copies, getting one after every four months. This gives you regular information than when you make requests at the end of every year.
- Be familiar with Your Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
It is very important to learn your Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, knowing your rights puts you in better grounds to avoid or settle any disputes in the event of one. You also need to seek guidance on things such as electronic health records in case your healthcare providers use such techniques. Consequently, this will help you if you check for especially if you suspect or realize you’ve fallen prey.
Always take time to read your explanation-of-benefits statements from the service providers to check for any deceitful charges. It is of help to know that you can always seek for an “accounting of disclosures,” from your medical providers. This is basically a listing of individuals who have received your data and what info they gained access to. You can easily have all these at hand, after all, the law dictates that you should be able to access a copy every year from each of the service providers.
- Don’t Give Out Your Personal Info to Friends or Family Members
Some things are too personal, beyond family and friends, I guess, therefore keep what’s meant for you to yourself. Giving out some personal information about you may help them get access to some medical care. The report from MIFA points out that about 30% of those who fell victims had given out pinpointing information to a sibling or friend.
Always stay on the watch tower for frauds! Be wary of strangers who claim to work for a healthcare company and begin offering you some services free of charge or for a seemingly throw-away price, seeking for your Social Security number or any other personal data.
The rule is simple: don’t give out what’s personal to strangers lest you suffer huge losses as a result of identity theft!
And just in case you fall a victim… Here is what to do
Anyone can fall prey of these traps set by criminals. If it comes to your attention that you have been victimized – which may take several months before you notice, maybe after receiving an unanticipated bill – make sure you report it to the relevant authorities immediately.
Apparently, a large number of people do not report medical identity theft for one reason or another. Not to sound critical about it though, for whatever reason, personally I wouldn’t take that lying down. Conversely, some let their cases go unreported because of embarrassment (maybe if they had given out their info to a trusted one whom they suspect to have leaked it out).
The other group suffers because of their lack of knowledge. Such individuals don’t just know where to report their cases. Well, your solution lies right next to you, such problems may be reported to the healthcare provider, responsible insurance company and the federal state authorities. You may also contact your local police department, the office of the state’s Attorney General, or the Department of Health Services.
As much as we may term Medical identity theft as a creepy scam, there are a number of precautions we ought to take while receiving medical insurance from different insurers and healthcare providers. The above mentioned tactics will help you minimize its damage should you become a victim or avoid it completely.