Medical ID theft can hurt financial, physical well-being

With more and more health care providers moving to electronic records, the number of medical identity theft cases is up. This alarming trend can be a huge risk for your finances and your health care

This week, Call 12 for Action is investigating health-care nightmares.

One of those health-care nightmares can create a huge risk for your finances — and your treatment —medical identity theft.

It happens more than you think, especially as health-care providers move away from paper files to digital ones.

Medical ID theft can occur in a variety of ways. An insider within an organization can collect the information. Or an organized crime ring can hack an entire database.

It can leave you vulnerable without you even knowing it.

Your health-care provider could unknowingly put you at risk with your medical records, if they’re not secure, because medical identity theft is on the rise.

It accounted for 43 percent of all identity theft reported in 2013, reports Identity Theft 911.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, a thief may use your personal information to:

• See a doctor.

• Get prescription drugs.

• File claims with your insurance provider, leaving you with medical bills.

If the thief’s health information is mixed with yours, it could affect your health care.

“The medical information of the thief has become comingled with that of the victim, and all of a sudden blood types change, allergies disappear new allergies appear.” said Adam Levin, chairman and founder of Identity Theft 911 and credit.com.

The situation potentially could put your life at risk.

So how can you make sure your information is protected? The answer may be threefold for you as a patient:

• Don’t e-mail your medical records, even though it may seem convenient.

• Don’t include your Social Security number, unless it is mandatory for insurance purposes.

• Ask at the doctor’s office, lab and hospital how your records are being safeguarded.

The American Medical Association said its policy is to “discourage the use of Social Security numbers to identify insureds, patients, and physicians, except in those situations where the use of these numbers is required by law and/or regulation.”

But the threat remains for your financial records and possibly your health.

The Arizona Medical Association offers continuing education for security issues. According to an association representative, it is the nature of the profession that doctors have awareness and sensitivity to the security and confidentiality of their patients’ information.

However, Levin said, “Doctors are great at what they do. And security may not be one of the things they’re great at.”

Article source: http://www.azcentral.com/story/money/business/consumer/call%2012%20for%20action/2014/04/22/medical-theft-can-hurt-financial-physical/8030759/

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