Clark Howard: Prevent identity theft at medical offices

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Thursday, May 15, 2014 | 10:12 a.m.

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Atlanta Bargain Hunter

Posted: 9:00 a.m. Thursday, May 15, 2014


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By Clark Howard

The Identity Theft Resource Center reports almost half of all identity theft now is happening at medical providers. But there is a way to protect yourself.

There are many reasons why medical identity theft is running rampant. High turnover in the back offices and too much paperwork floating around are chief among them. The scary reality is that one errant employee can steal the identities of hundreds if not thousands of people. Without question, this is the fastest growing area of identity theft.

So what can you do? Is this just another problem without a solution? No way.

Here’s my advice: Don’t fill in your Social Security number on any medical paperwork when you first go to a doctor. The only reason they want it is that so if you don’t pay, it’s easier to turn you over to a collection agency.

This is such an Achilles heel for identity theft. Don’t fill that number in. You won’t have ironclad protection, but it’s a good start.

Here are some additional tips to keep you out of harm’s way:

  • Use a shredder for papers that contain financial info before recycling. I’ve had many listeners suggests you should mix up your shredded financial papers with a dirty diaper if you have young kids. That will definitely deter an identity thief any day of the week!
  • Use to remove your name from the mailing list of the credit card companies. That way you won’t get the credit card apps that are so central for identity thieves. With, you will have to disclose your Social Security number because that’s how the credit bureaus build a dossier on you.
  • Finally, freeze your credit if you’re really concerned about limiting any damage from possible identity theft.

Consumer expert Clark Howard’s column appears here each Thursday in conjunction with Deal Spotter, a weekly print section in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Find more answers to your consumer questions at Clark’s website.

— Clark Howard — Save More, Spend Less, Avoid Rip-offs — for the Atlanta Bargain Hunter blog

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