June 5th, 2010 at 4:34 am
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Medical Identity Theft Rapidly Increasing As People Have Lost Health Insurance

by Carol Bursack

When I had my last checkup at a clinic I’ve patronized for years, the woman at the desk took my picture. I was a little surprised, but she said they’d been trying to get all of their patient’s pictures on the charts for years, but only recently gotten really serious about it. I thought it was amusing and joked that I should have combed my windblown hair. I thought no more about it.

After reading a fascinating and frightening feature article in a recent edition of the American Heart Association publication Heart Insight, I’ve changed my attitude. The article, titled “Stolen Identity, Stolen Insurance,” and written by Carol Patton,  gives us a look into the growing crime of medical identity theft. Some of the rapid growth in this area is attributed to people having lost jobs, and with their jobs, their health insurance. They will go to a doctor using false identification, much of which is fairly easy to obtain. The danger here lurks not only in ruining the victim’s credit, but in messing up a person’s health records to the point that they can be treated for a disease that they don’t have or not treated for their own issues because of a presumed underlying illness that is actually an illness endured by the thief.

There are medical identity theft rings, as well. The Heart Insight articles says, “nine out of 10 times, medical identity theft is perpetrated by dishonest healthcare workers, such as billing clerks, nurses and others who have access to patient information.” To me, that is more frightening than someone haphazardly gathering our information. The theft is an inside job.

This informative article talks about medical ID theft and what it can do to the victim. It also lists new ways technology can help deter this fraud. One way is a fairly inexpensive finger print reader. There are also retina scanners.

I’m now grateful that my clinic is taking some steps to make sure we are who we say we are. Who would have thought that all the repetition of birth dates and addresses and such one goes through to just to make a doctor appointment was needed. However, it’s more than needed. It’s only a start. A thief can find our birthday, address and other relevant information with very little digging online. None of us are immune. Stolen mail from mailboxes can give crooks all they need to know in order to not only get a credit card your name, but use your identity to get expensive medical treatment, and ruin your credit in the process.

It wasn’t that long ago that most driver’s licenses had Social Security numbers on them. Medicare cards still do. That little bit of information if often all that is missing in an ID theft ring’s list of your information. Guard that for all that it’s worth – your good name.

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