1.5 Million Americans Have Been Victims of Medical Identity
Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert
The Smartcard Alliance has released an in-depth report called “Medical Identity Theft in Healthcare.”
While identity theft is a global issue that garners much media attention, most do not realize that medical identity theft is a serious and growing threat. Many authorities consider medical identity theft one of the fastest growing crimes in America. With the digital age of healthcare upon us, the risks are expected to increase as electronic medical records become more prevalent and the exchange of this data over expanding networks becomes more pervasive. Heightened concern over personal data security and privacy highlight the importance of having secure electronic medical identities.
According to a recent Ponemon Institute study, nearly 1.5 million Americans have been victims of medical identity theft with an estimated total cost of $28.6 billion–or approximately $20,000 per victim.  Further evidence of the significance of the medical fraud problem is the allocation of $1.7 billion for fraud detection in the 2011 U.S. Health and Human Services Department budget.  In 2009, 68 reported healthcare data breaches in the U.S. put over 11.3 million patient records at risk of exposure.
Patients whose medical identities are stolen face serious lingering effects. Fraudulent healthcare events can leave erroneous data in medical records. This erroneous information–like information about tests, diagnoses and procedures–can greatly affect future healthcare and insurance coverage and costs. Patients are often unaware of medical identity theft until a curious bill or a surprising line of questioning by a doctor exposes the issue. Then, the burden of proof is often with the patient and it can be difficult to get the patient’s legitimate medical records cleaned up. The consequences can also be life threatening and can lead to serious medical errors and fatalities.
Identity theft prevention services generally will not protect you from medical identity theft. However, if your information is out there on the Net and being scanned constantly by the identity theft protection service, then your risk is lowered. Furthermore, I’m all about layers of protection. If your identity is protected from new account fraud via credit monitoring or credit freezes then the thief may use another identity that has less restrictions.
1. Get a credit freeze and follow the steps for your particular state. This is an absolutely necessary tool to secure your credit. In most cases, it prevents new accounts from being opened in your name. This makes your Social Security number useless to a potential identity thief.
2. Invest in Intelius identity theft protection and prevention. Not all forms of identity theft can be prevented, but identity theft protection services can dramatically reduce your risk. (Disclosures)
Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker discussing Medical Identity Theft on the CBS Early Show