The call came after Rhonda signed up for Social Security benefits: someone claimed they could get her a better deal on health insurance. But Rhonda still had coverage through her employer, and the offer didn’t make sense. She hung up and blocked the caller. What just happened? A scammer had tried to get her personal information for medical identity theft (and she successfully avoided it).
What is Medical Identity Theft?
Each year medical identity theft affects millions of Americans every year. It occurs when someone uses your personal information to get your health insurance to pay fraudulent claims. This can have severe consequences for your health, finances, and credit. The effects of medical identity theft can include:
Receiving bills for medical services or products that you did not receive or order.
Having your health insurance benefits denied or reduced because of fraudulent claims
Having errors or false information in your medical records that can affect your treatment or diagnosis.
Having your credit score damaged by unpaid medical debts.
Facing legal problems or identity theft charges if the thief commits crimes using your identity.
How to Prevent Identity Theft
To protect yourself from medical identity theft, you must be vigilant and proactive about your personal and medical information. Here are some tips to help you prevent and detect this type of fraud:
Safeguard medical documents. Keep your health insurance card, Medicare card, and other documents with your medical information safe. Do not share them with anyone unless you trust them and need to. Shred any documents that you no longer need before throwing them away. Immediately report a lost or stolen card to your health insurance company or Medicare.
Review bills and statements. Check your medical bills, statements, and explanation of benefits (EOB) for any charges or services you do not recognize. Contact your healthcare provider or health insurance company immediately if you see anything suspicious. You can also request a copy of your medical records from your providers and review them for accuracy.
Monitor your credit reports. Medical identity theft can affect your credit score and history. A thief could use your information to open new accounts or create unpaid bills. You can get a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Request them online at AnnualCreditReport.com or by calling 1-877-322-8228. Look for any inquiries, accounts, or debts you do not recognize and dispute them with the credit bureau and the creditor.
Protect personal information. Be wary of people who contact you by phone, text, or email and ask for your personal information. Scammers may pretend to be from your healthcare provider, health insurance company, Medicare, or a government agency. Do not give out your personal or medical information to anyone who contacts you by email, phone, text, or social media.
Never click on any links or attachments in unsolicited emails or messages. If you need to check your insurance, use the contact information phone number or website on your insurance card. Use strong passwords and security software on your devices to keep hackers from stealing your data. Avoid using public Wi-Fi networks for sensitive transactions.
Report any suspected fraud.If you think you are a medical identity theft victim or notice any signs of fraud, report it as soon as possible. You can contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at IdentityTheft.gov or 1-877-ID-THEFT (1-877-438-4338) to file a complaint and get a recovery plan. You may need proof of your identity and evidence of the fraud to clear your name and restore your benefits.
Be vigilant if you’re a caregiver. Protect your loved one with the tips above. If spammers pester them with messages, get a new phone number or email address for the older adult. Look into resources for new caregivers for advice on caring for older adults.
You Can Prevent Identity Theft
Medical identity theft is a severe threat that can harm your health and finances. Following these tips, you can protect yourself and your loved ones from this fraud and enjoy a safe retirement.