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Guard Against Medical Identity Theft

Guard Against Medical Identity Theft

August 26, 2016

There is a lot you can do to avoid medical identity theft and to reduce its negative effects if your personal data is stolen.

Here, the proactive steps to take to keep your private health information out of the reach of hackers and other would-be thieves, advice on spotting the signs of a potential problem, and how to proceed in the event of a theft.

RELATED: Hospice Fraud Costing Medicare Millions

10 Ways to Guard Against Medical Identity Theft

1. Get copies of your medical records and add new information each time you receive treatment. If your records are corrupted by a thief, you’ll have proof that they were altered. “The victims I’ve talked with tell me that their deepest regret is that they didn’t have a copy of their files before the incident,” says Pam Dixon of the World Privacy Forum, a nonprofit public interest research group.

2. Check your medical records at least once annually. If you notice an error, alert your healthcare provider and request a change.

3. Read every explanation of benefits (EOB) notice from your insurer. If you see something fishy, call about it right away.

4. Be careful with your Social Security number. Keep your SSN out of your medical file, and if you’re asked for it at the hospital or doctor’s office, tell them you’d rather not share it for security reasons. That isn’t possible if you’re on Medicare, where your SSN is currently on your card. Be careful with your insurance ID number as well.

5. If your doctor or hospital asks you to scan your driver’s license or other government-­issued ID, question whether it’s necessary and resist. If that information is stolen along with your medical data, it can increase your chance of identity theft.

RELATED: Several Americans are Victims of Fraud

6. If you lose your health insurance card, call and ask for a new ID number and new card, advises Larry Ponemon of the Ponemon Institute, a private cybersecurity ­research firm.

7. Never share your health data or personal information over the phone or in an email unless you’re sure who you are communicating with. Questionable emails soliciting that information, known as phishing, often look official but are from hackers. And don’t fall for phone scams asking for your Medicare or health insurance ID number.

8. Don’t share health information on websites and apps, where it may be less secure.

9. Know that the practice of allowing friends or family members to use your insurance ID is illegal.

10. Ask your healthcare providers how they safeguard your information. “If you see medical records screens up and people walking away without locking them, it’s a clue that they don’t take privacy seriously,” says healthcare attorney Clinton Mikel, chairman of the American Bar Association’s eHealth, Privacy & Security Interest Group.

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