Groups » Seven Surefire Ways to Identify and Prevent Medical Identity Theft

Identity theft has become a lucrative illegal business in recent years. Lately, identity thieves have turned their attention to stealing digital medical records and identities. A 2013 survey on medical identity theft conducted by Ponemon Institute and sponsored by the Medical Identity Fraud Alliance (MIFA) shows that medical ID theft has nearly doubled since the first study five years ago.

As healthcare information is easier to hack compared to the credit card information, an increasing number of hackers are targeting computerized health insurance and medical records. The Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, has unknowingly opened new opportunities for cyber criminals involved in medical ID theft.

Health insurance and medical records contain sensitive personal information such as names, addresses, birthdates, telephone numbers, credit card information, and social security numbers. This information can be used to commit both online and offline healthcare fraud. Fortunately, there are a few simple methods that can be used to prevent and spot such theft. The following seven ways can help you identify and stop medical ID theft.

1. Check Your Explanation of Benefits (EOB) Statements Carefully

An explanation of benefits (EOB) statement shows detailed information about the treatments and services covered by your health insurance provider. Usually, you may receive a statement in a few days after the doctor’s visit or hospital stay. Most people file their health insurance statements without reading them. However, this habit may cost them dearly.

You should carefully review your EOB statement every time you receive it. Don’t forget to crosscheck your digital EOB statement with the paper record sent by courier or post. In case of discrepancies, contact your insurance provider immediately. A careful review of your EOB statements can certainly help you detect and prevent medical ID theft. Besides, it can also help you notice billing errors.

2. Steer Clear of Suspicious Emails and Websites

Online scammers often share bogus links via emails asking individuals to submit their sensitive information. They can send you legitimate looking emails sent on behalf of reputed companies. This method is commonly known as phishing. The perpetrators trick you into revealing personal information such as passwords, credit card details, social security, and bank account numbers. Make sure to verify the email address from which the email is sent to you.

Cybercriminals can also use email links to install malware on your computer. It is a computer program designed to steal sensitive information from your system. Therefore, you shouldn’t open any suspicious links. If possible, use two-factor authentication for email and other accounts. Make sure to install antivirus software and keep it updated as per the recommendations.

Remember, no insurance company or healthcare provider will request your personal information via email. If necessary, don’t hesitate to call your insurer or health care provider and verify the authenticity of such email.

3. Never Use Public Wi-Fi

Free Wi-Fi may seem irresistible, but it is notoriously unsafe. Anyone using the same public Wi-Fi can access the information you are sending through that connection. Unlike your private Internet connection, public Wi-Fi connections are not encrypted, increasing the risk of a security breach. However, in the case of an emergency, you can access public Wi-Fi through an encrypted VPN service. Nonetheless, make sure your firewall is turned on and your anti-malware is updated.

4. Share Your Personal Information Only When Necessary

The less personal information you share, the more protected you are from potential medical ID theft. You should, therefore, share only the bare minimum information even with your insurance provider. For example, avoid sharing your social security number (SSN) with your insurer as far as possible. Most hackers are interested in stealing your social security number. They will stop at nothing to lay their hands on it. Make sure to ask your insurer if it is necessary to provide other sensitive information such as date of birth or driver’s license. Remember, you should never share any personal information, especially over the phone.

5. Destroy Outdated Medical and Insurance Records

Outdated medical or insurance records are frequently used to commit medical ID theft. Shred your outdated paper records to make sure they don’t fall into the wrong hands. Alternatively, you can use software programs to shred your outdated computer records.

6. Store Your Information in a Safe Location

Today, most people store their personal information in a digital form on computers or online. However, storing all your personal info on the cloud is like sending an open invitation to a hacker. In fact, stealing online data is much easier than robbing your house. Never store all your digital information in one online location. Change your passwords frequently to protect online information. Make sure to use an encrypted Internet connection to go online. If you suspect anything, register a fraud alert on your medical records.

Store your personal info on a password-protected external hard drive. If possible, encrypt the digital medical records before storing them. Store your paper records, CDs, flash drives, and hard drives in a locked file cabinet. Avoid carrying your insurance card with you except when you’re going to the doctor’s office or hospital.

7. Don't Share Your Medical Information on Social Media

Avoid sharing your medical information on social media at all costs. Today, patients and doctors use several healthcare apps and websites to communicate with each other. Hackers can easily steal your personal information from these websites, mobile apps, and your social media accounts. So, be careful when using them.

A medical identity theft victim has to face devastating health and financial consequences. Unfortunately, the odds of you being a victim of medical ID theft are greater than ever. Digitalized medical records are particularly at a higher risk of theft. Hackers can easily lay their hands on your sensitive personal information by illegally accessing online medical and insurance records. However, there are steps that you can take to protect your information. These seven simple ways can reduce your risk of becoming a victim of medical ID theft.

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