Protect Your Financial Health: Avoid Medical Identity Theft
Have you ever opened a bill from your medical provider and discovered a $300 charge for an eye infection you never received treatment for? Is it an innocent mistake by the doctor’s office, or is it medical identity theft?
Medical identity theft occurs when a dishonest person gets ahold of your health plan ID number or other medical information and uses it to receive treatment. There were more than 1.4 million victims of medical identity theft in 2010 and 2011.
You may not even know it happened until you start getting bills from doctors or collection agencies for services you didn’t receive. Or you might make an insurance claim and be told you’ve reached your benefit limit, or apply for insurance and be denied because your records show a condition you don’t have.
There is no surefire way to avoid such theft, but there are a number of ways to make it less likely, according to the FTC:
Beware of strangers seeking information. That official-sounding person on the phone (or that official-looking letter or email) isn’t necessarily legitimate. If you didn’t initiate the contact, and you don’t know the person asking the question, don’t give out personal or medical information.
Lock up medical and health insurance information. Medical or health insurance records should be kept secure, whether in your file cabinet or in a file online. Beware of emails or websites asking for information like your Social Security number or your medical condition.
If a site’s web address begins “https,” the “s” is for “secure.” Another good sign, look for a lock icon on the browser’s status bar. Also remember, email is not secure.
Shred your health insurance forms, prescription and physician statements before you toss them. Tear up the labels on your prescription bottles, too.