Medical Identity Theft: Are You at Risk?

Stolen health records can fetch up to $2000 on the black market. — Getty Images

Financial identity theft may dominate the headlines, yet there’s a bigger threat that goes beyond what’s in your wallet or bank account. It’s medical identity theft, up about 20 percent last year.

Crooks use your insurance or personal information to get treatment or medication, or to submit false billings in your name. And unlike credit card fraud — in which card issuers eat most, if not all, of the bogus charges — there are no such protections with medical identity theft.

Victims often have to pay — about 36 percent of victims in 2013 incurred out-of-pocket costs that averaged $18,660, according to research by the Ponemon Institute, which studies this particular crime. Others lose their health insurance or have to pay higher premiums to restore it. Last year, nearly half of all identity data breaches in the U.S. were medical-related.

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