What is the first thing you do when your wallet is stolen? Of course, you quickly notify your bank and credit card companies. But it is also equally important to call your medical insurance company. Why, you ask? Medical identity theft. What is medical identity theft? It involves someone using your insurance information for medical treatment without your knowledge or permission. The consequences can be grave. You or a family member may receive incorrect medical treatment, which could lead to fatality. You may also be denied health and life insurance coverage because of the treatment or prescriptions the other person obtained with your information. Your information can be stolen in different ways, but often it is by someone who has knowledge of the insurance business. This includes doctors, receptionists, or other medical office employees. It could also be a pharmacist or pharmacy technician. Thieves without their own coverage can get treatment or medications using your plan. Drug addicts may steal your identity to buy or sell prescription drugs. About 250,000 people fall victim to medical identity theft each year. The average cost per victim? A whopping $20,000 in 2010.
The best medical identity theft protection is monitoring your credit report for medical debts and verifying that they belong to you. Keep all of your Explanation of Benefit documents that your insurance company sends you. Once a year, request documentation of all claims paid out from your insurance company on your behalf. If any information seems wrong, contact them immediately. It can take a lot of time and energy to fix the problem, so catching it as soon as possible is key. Another way on how to avoid identity theft is to consider carrying your insurance card only when going to the doctor or pharmacy. It is also important to memorize your social security number and just leave your social security card at home. Your social security number is the key to identity theft. If your provider asks for the number, see if they would be willing to use a driver’s license number instead, or just the last four digits of your social security number. If you do find yourself a victim of identity theft, file a police report. This can serve as evidence to medical insurers that someone stole your identity and can make it easier to undo any damage to your credit report. You should also correct any false information on your medical records. This involves calling your doctor, insurance company, pharmacy, and any other entity that may have affected records. Work with them to ensure all erroneous records are cleared from your file. Ask to have a copy of the police report added to each file, as well. Make it a habit to check and keep your records updated. It can be a tedious process, but it can save you from becoming a victim of medical identity theft.