Job Loss and Unemployment Means Loss of Benefits and a Rise in Medical Identity Theft

Identity thieves often target a victim's bank accounts or credit cards or else use a victim's information to establish credit for credit cards, loans or even utilities in a victim's name.  Informed citizens know to protect their bank and credit card numbers, social security numbers and passwords but did you know that you need to be just as vigilant with your insurance card numbers?

Medical identity theft occurs when someone fraudulent uses someone else's identity, including their insurance benefits to receive medical services, care or goods or else to make false claims for financial gain.  

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What can someone do with your medical benefits?

In some cases, the crimes are committed by undocumented workers or other uninsured to receive needed medical services.  Drug addicts who can't get more prescriptions in their own name will steal someone else's medical identity to gain access to more prescription drugs. Others are simply interested in making fraudulent claims for financial gain.

Medical identity theft can impact your health and your credit.  Victims of medical identity theft have received medical bills for over $40,000 for treatments they never had.  Even more minor procedures or diagnosis' threaten a victim.  Your medical history and insurance claims follow you everywhere, which is a good thing if the information is correct.  If you end up in an emergency room, doctors will make decisions on your treatment based on this past medical history and parts of it are bogus, your treatment could suffer.  

Medical identity theft can occur in private doctor's offices, clinics and hospitals.  Lt. Robert Sebby with Metro Financial Crimes explains, "I've had doctors call me and tell me they don't know who they operated on."

Medical identity theft isn't a new problem but it is on the rise.  With the massive job cuts and high unemployment rates, more and more people are uninsured, which makes the crime of medical identity theft more tempting.  

"As more and more people lose their jobs, more and more people lose their healthcare," said Lt. Sebby.

"This is particularly a problem for the hospitals, and it's a very real one in any high growth area -- in any area where there's a lot of transient population -- but it has really become a problem in Las Vegas," said Larry Matheis, Executive Director of the Nevada State Medical Association.

Best Tips for Protecting Yourself from Medical Identity Theft

Get a copy of your medical records to save for comparison in the future.

*Request a list of payments made for your medical services from your insurance company every year.

*Check your credit report at least once a year for any unusual unpaid charges for medical services.

*Never assume an unwarranted medical bill is just another error.  Research and question all suspicious charges.  

*File a police report on unwarranted charges if the insurance company doesn't agree that it is an error.

*Protect your insurance card and benefits papers as if they are your social security numbers or bank account numbers.  

Identity theft can cause major credit issues and hassles but medical identity theft threatens your healthcare as well your credit so take it seriously and consider these steps to be preventive. 

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