Dead before your time!?!Identity Theft
We’ve been discussing Identity Theft here for some time now but there is a new danger in town! Given the rising cost of medical care and the desire for some to obtain prescription drugs for illegal purposes Identity Thieves are targeting your medical identity in addition to your financial identity!! This is a devious twist to the now old crime of identity theft. Tens of thousands of Americans may already be victims of medical identity theft and not know it.
Pilot and business owner Joe Ryan thought it was a joke when he opened a letter from a collection agency stating he owed more than $40,000 for a surgery that he never underwent. In an effort to clear up the matter he told them he had not had any surgery. At first unresponsive Mr. Ryan went in and talked with the agency where he offered ‘You want to see my body?’ And they said ‘No, no.’ I said, ‘I have no scars'”. He discovered he was a victim of medical identity theft. Medical Identity Theft occurs when someone takes your identity information and they use it to get medical treatment in your name, using your insurance or credit. Often the imposter’s simply provide fake insurance information, or none at all. It is estimated that nearly 250,000 Americans have already been victims of medical identity theft. In many ways this is worse then financial identity theft because you can be looking at one time charges of upwards of $100,000.00.
Aside from creating medical bills for you these medical identity thieves pose and even more dangerous problem, one to your health. Once in control of your records they can alter your medical information, changing your blood type, removing drug allergies or medical conditions thereby putting you in a life-threatening situation.
Joe Ryan commented, “What happens if I drive home today, and I get in a wreck and I end up in a coma? They bring all those medical records, you know. Am I allergic to penicillin; is that the same blood type?” The man Ryan believes stole his identity has since died, but the problems could haunt him for years. “Now, he’s dead. Am I dead? You know, will I ever get Social Security?” said Ryan. More hospitals are now recognizing the crime and establishing programs to prevent it. Hospitals are now asking patients to provide identification such as a passport or driver’s license. While these items are difficult to get they are not impossible, just costly. Regardless the hospitals think the new measures are working. So how do you know if a medical identity thief has hit you? If you receive a bill or an insurance claim in your name for medical services you never received, that is a red flag. Just as with your financial records go over any bills you receive, if you find an error go to wherever the bill was sent, call them up and ask them for a copy of your medical file. Work to change your records. Go to the insurance company; go to every place where you think your medical file has been. This process can be very difficult since once your medical records are altered it is almost impossible to get them information completely removed because of duplication and storage requirements.
While victims of financial identity theft have explicit legal rights to help clear their records, victims of medical identity theft currently do not have any blanket rights allowing people to correct errors in their medical files. Basically all you can do is protect your identity as best as possible, watch your records and hope your identity doesn’t get targeted. If it does document everything. Another good suggestion is to maintain a copy of your medical records which simply means the doctor has to give you a copy either periodically or as things are entered. This way you have your records on hand if you need to prove you are the real John Doe!
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