As we age, health and health care becomes an essential part of our ability to live a long, active lifestyle. But every year, older adults' health can be jeopardized due to an unseen, silent risk.
Medical identity theft continues to be a growing concern. According to the Ponemon Institute, a research center dedicated to privacy, data protection and information security policy, an estimated 1.84 million people were victims of medical identity theft in 2013.
In addition to severely compromising a victim's medical treatment, the crime is also costly. Ponemon stated that medical identity theft cost victims over $12 billion in out-of-pocket medical fees in 2013, yet many victims are unaware that their medical records have been compromised.
Some warning signs of medical identity theft include:
- Getting a bill for a medical service you didn't receive
- A notice from your health plan stating you have reached your benefit limit
- Denial of insurance after a fraudulent condition is listed in your medical record
If your health records are compromised in a medical identity crime, your health may be at risk while you seek resolution. Unfortunately, in some cases, you must resolve these issues before you can receive future treatment.
Here are some proactive steps you can take to keep your private medical information safe from criminals.
Leave your Medicare card at home.
Medicare cards contain important personally identifying information (PII). When not in use, your Medicare card should be stored at home in a safe, with your other personal documents. If you need to carry your Medicare information with you, make a photocopy of the card and black out the revealing information.
Ask your doctor for a copy of your medical records.
There may be a fee associated with attaining your records. Review your medical history carefully, keeping an eye out for any inaccuracies.
You may also ask for a copy of the "accounting of disclosures" of your medical records. This report will include:
- Details of the medical information exchanged with your provider
- Who received your medical information
- The reason your medical information was requested
You are permitted to order one free copy of this report from each of your medical providers every 12 months.If you find errors in your medical history, report them immediately.
Do not provide your healthcare information over the phone.
Seniors are often targeted by criminals with scams that promise free medical care, money, or "ways around" Medicare. Do not accept these false offers.
Remember, a reputable company will never ask you to provide your personal data over the phone. If someone calls and requests your military or insurance information, hang up—this is a scam!
Monitor your medical bills.
Open and read all mailed medical bills, insurance statements, and Medicare summaries. Keep a watchful eye out for unexplained charges or purchases.
Review your credit report.
Seniors need to remain vigilant over their credit report. Errors and fraudulent activity frequently appear on a credit report.
You can request one free credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies (CRAs):
We recommend reviewing your report every four months.
Funded by a partnership with the Texas Legislature, and powered by the Center for Identity, IDWise is a resource center for the public on identity theft, fraud, and privacy.