Medical Identity Theft and You: How You Can Protect Your Privacy in the Digital Age

The rise of digitization in medical files has made it easier than ever to review your medical history. Unfortunately, digitization has also made it easier for thieves to access those files and use that information for their own purposes—effectively stealing your medical identity.

While we’re actively fighting for new legislation and security protocols that will cut down on medical identity theft, we also want you to be aware that there are steps you can take to help protect yourself now. But first, let’s discuss this crime and how it can happen to you. 

What is medical identity theft?

Your healthcare provider has access to a great deal of private information, all of which can be used to steal your medical identity.

If someone uses your healthcare information to submit false claims or obtain medical services for themselves or someone else, then you are a victim of medical identity theft. Someone has enough information to pose as you, and any medical visits they receive or devices/prescriptions they need are then billed to your insurance provider. 

Medical identity theft can have immediate financial consequences, as your insurer may pass some of the expenses on to you. More worryingly, healthcare visits, diagnoses, and treatments can be linked to you. In a recent case, a woman was arrested after her health insurance information was used to purchase thousands of opioids from local pharmacies. It took years to expunge the arrest from her record, potentially damaging job and housing prospects.

How does medical identity theft happen?

Sometimes all a thief needs is your health insurance card. If you leave it at a doctor’s office, or it slips out of your wallet while you’re out walking, someone can pick it up and put it to work for them.

Unfortunately, someone in your doctor’s office can use this information to make fraudulent healthcare claims, which isn’t just a gross invasion of privacy; it can also damage your quality of life and your finances.

A lost insurance card isn’t the only threat to your privacy, though. Data breaches are happening with more frequency—between 2009 and 2020, for example, 3,705 healthcare-related data breaches were reported. This totaled almost 270 million medical records exposed or stolen.

There are also some healthcare providers willing to betray the trust you place in them and use your private information for their own profit. Your doctor’s office has a huge amount of data on you:

  • Insurance number and associated information
  • Social Security number
  • Credit card information
  • Phone number, home address, and email address

How can I tell if my medical identity has been stolen?

In 2017, 30% of medical identity theft victims were not sure when the theft occurred. This is often because there are few signs the average consumer can quickly interpret. The medical coding that identifies what services are being charged for makes it difficult to see where there may be inconsistencies in the treatment you received vs. what you’re being charged for. If you’re undergoing continuous medical care, for example, you may opt to just pay off a bill when it arrives.

Often, many consumers don’t realize their information is being used until their insurance informs them that they’ve maxed out their benefits, or—worse—they are charged for crimes someone else committed.

How can I protect myself from medical identity theft?

The best way to stop medical identity theft is to ensure your privacy remains intact. This means examining your insurance bills to see what has been charged and making sure those treatments line up with what you’ve received.

HealthLock can help you do that. We provide 24/7 privacy monitoring of your insurance bills, scrutinizing every charge made. If something doesn’t match up, we’ll flag it and even help you investigate further. If it’s believed that your medical identity has been stolen, we can help you set the record straight and get your money back.

You have a right to medical privacy. HealthLock is here to help you protect and keep that privacy.