Medical identity theft is the deadliest form of identity theft—and I say this without hyperbole or exaggeration. When financial gain is the general motivation for stealing medical information, insurance cards, records, etc., the crime is a form of account takeover fraud. Medical identity theft—the real kind—occurs when the thief’s motivation is obtaining medical procedures or healthcare.
Insurance cards allow access to a hospital or doctor’s office. When requests for additional forms of identity are requested, the thief produces fake IDs. Often, the thief conspires with an employee at the facility who “sweethearts” the transaction so the thief can get medical services.
Insurance cards are just paper or plastic and can easily be counterfeited. Many are often lost or stolen, and simply possessing an insurance card allows a thief access. Hospitals rely on the honor system, believing patients are who they say they are—but people lie. And while most of the administrators are doing their jobs ethically, some lie too.
When a thief steals a medical ID to procure medical care, the thief’s medical condition and diagnosis are added to the victim’s medical record. Ouch. This may end up as a misdiagnosis, and the introduction of data that might conflict with the victim’s medical history or conditions. Such would-be contraindications as allergies, drugs the victim may be allergic to, and other health issues may not be considered. Finally, getting misinformation or fraud removed from a victim’s medical record can be extremely difficult and sometimes impossible.
To protect yourself from medical identity theft:
- Install a locking mailbox. This helps prevent mail from being stolen.
- Never carry insurance or medical cards on your person unless you have an actual appointment.
- Protect medical information documents in locking file cabinets or encrypted files. Shred all throwaway documents.
- Get identity theft protection. When a thief can’t steal your financial ID, your medical ID will be less attractive.