Protect Your Medical Identity

Medical identity theft is a serious business. According to one study, about 1.5 million adults are victims of medical identity theft each year. FDIC Money Smart offers the following information and consumer tips.

Medical ID theft occurs when someone steals personal information and uses the information to get medical treatment, prescription drugs, surgery and/or other services and then bills insurance for it. If the thief’s health information is mixed with yours, your treatment, insurance and payment records, and credit report may be affected. Sometimes people are denied coverage for a service or medical equipment because their records falsely show they already received it.

All types of people, including doctors and medical equipment companies, have been caught stealing people’s medical identities. About one-third of medical identity thieves are family members. Warning signs of a stolen identity include a bill for medical services not received, contacts by a debt collection company for money not owed, insurance company notification of the limit reached on medical benefits, or denial of insurance for a medical condition you do not have.

To avoid medical identity theft

  • Protect your health insurance cards.
  • Review your Explanations of Benefits (EOB) statements and medical bills for suspicious charges. If you find incorrect information in your records, insist it be corrected or removed.
  • Do not give your medical information to someone who calls, emails, or texts you unexpectedly. It could be a scammer trying to steal your information. Instead, log in to your online medical account from a website you know is real. Or contact the company or provider using a phone number you know is real.
  • Shred papers with your medical identity before putting them in the trash. Remove or destroy labels on prescription bottles and packages before you put them in the trash.

If you suspect medical identity theft, ask your health care provider for a copy of your current medical file. If anything seems wrong, write to your health plan or provider and ask for a correction.

Guest blogger, Phyllis Zalenski, Human Sciences Specialist, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

Barb Wollan

Barb Wollan's goal as a Family Finance program specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is to help people use their money according to THEIR priorities. She provides information and tools, and then encourages folks to focus on what they control: their own decisions about what to do with the money they have.

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