How to Avoid Medical I.D. Theft

By WALECIA KONRAD, The New York Times
Published: June 12, 2009

Here are the steps you need to take to avoid medical identity theft — and what to do if you suspect you’re a victim:

KEEP TRACK OF INSURANCE CARDS Although you need to carry your insurance information with you in case of an emergency, you need to be as careful with it as your ATM, credit or Social Security card, says Scott Mitic, chief executive of TrustedID, an identity theft protection company. This is especially true for Medicare recipients, whose Social Security number is printed directly onto their Medicare card. Report lost or stolen cards to your insurer immediately. Never lend your card to a friend and never give your insurance information over the phone.

SCRUTINIZE THOSE STATEMENTS Every time a medical claim is made, the insurer sends you an “explanation of benefits statement.” Check carefully for unusual charges for treatment you do not remember getting. If you are not sure where the charge is coming from, call your insurer and ask for the name and address of the provider.

GET AN ANNUAL STATEMENT Sophisticated thieves know how to redirect your explanation of benefits to a fake address. To counter this, ask your insurer for an annual itemized list of all claims billed to you. Fraudulent claims that may not have appeared on your explanation of benefits should show up on this list.

CHECK YOUR CREDIT REPORT Do it regularly. As in Brandon Sharp’s case, unpaid hospital or doctor bills that have gone to a collection agency will eventually show up on your credit report. You can get a free annual copy of your report from all three credit reporting agencies at

GET COPIES OF MEDICAL RECORDS Do it routinely. Each time you go to the doctor or hospital, request a copy of your medical records and keep them in a safe place at home. That way, if someone does steal your information and your medical records are altered, you’ll have the “before” copies. These documents will make it much easier to prove you are who you say you are when you report the fraud. They will also help when trying to correct files.

AVOID OFFERS OF FREE SERVICES This is a common ruse for fraudsters. Better to have routine screenings like blood pressure and blood sugar tests done through your physician’s office.

If you think you are a victim …

CALL YOUR INSURER Most insurance companies have antifraud units that specialize in medical identity theft problems. If you think you are a victim of identity theft, call the insurer’s customer service and ask for the antifraud hotline.

CHECK SUSPICIOUS MEDICAL RECORDS Contact the provider in question and ask for a copy of the medical records in your name. Do this even if you have to pay for the records.

But, advises Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, do not tell them you suspect fraud. “The minute you say there may be someone posing as you to get medical care, the provider may not let you see the records.”

Once you have the records, you can then look for discrepancies like an different age from yours or a history of diseases you do not have, that will help prove the fraud.

FILE A POLICE REPORT You will need this to open an investigation, get access to medical records and to help clear up any problems on your credit report.

USE THESE WEB RESOURCES To begin the process of correcting your medical records, follow the World Privacy Forum’s step-by-step guide for medical identity theft victims:

For more information on handling the financial aspects of medical identity theft, visit the Federal Trade Commissions identity theft site:

Posted on June 14, 2009, in identity theft and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. With so many baby boomers becoming eligible for Medicare, I’m surprised this form of identity theft isn’t more of a headliner in the news. Excellent suggestions.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: