How to Prevent Medical Identity Theft

How to prevent medical identity theft

Medical identity theft is on the rise - learn how to protect yourself!

Thanks to the Internet, you can be more proactive and informed when it comes to managing your own health—but you can also be more vulnerable than ever to healthcare-related identity theft and fraud. You can research, join e-groups and discussion lists, and even fill out new patient forms before you go to the doctor’s office. But these conveniences can come at a price.

Between patients and providers, there are a lot of marketers who would love to collect and make money from the health information you might be regularly giving out about yourself and your family. If that’s an unappealing thought, the news gets worse. Medical identity theft is on the rise—and could result in a lot more than just annoying marketing pitches.

If your medical information falls into the wrong hands, that person could use it to get care under your name. They could get prescriptions filled out, file insurance or Medicare reimbursement claims, and more, resulting in serious damage to your credit profile. And there’s always the chance that your information could be resold and result in full-blown identity theft.

Here’s how you can protect yourself:

Don’t give your medical or insurance information over the phone or by email to anybody who approaches you. It could be a scammer posing as an insurance or healthcare provider, a clinic, or even a government agency. If you’re giving out information by phone, make sure you initiate the call yourself so you can confirm who you’re talking to. And sensitive information should never be given out over email—better to use a secure Web form or just wait until you’re at the doctor’s office.

Give out your Social Security number as sparingly as you can. A lot of doctors will ask for your Social Security number, but you don’t have to provide it—it’s mainly just a convenience for them. If you don’t give them this information, you’ll be better protected in the event that the doctor’s office is burglarized, their files are ever hacked, or a backup tape goes missing.

Get a good shredder and use it. Dumpster-diving is still a valuable tool in the identity thief’s arsenal. Shred health insurance forms, mail from your doctor’s office, and prescription labels when you’re done with them.

Be careful online. If you need to fill out new patient forms, check for a security icon or look at the URL and confirm that it begins with https://before you proceed—or just print out the forms and fill them out by hand. Don’t give away too much information in chats or on message boards. It never hurts to read a site’s privacy policy, either, before you divulge information that could be shared with marketers. For more tips on preventing medical identity theft, read the Federal Trade Commission’s fact sheet.

Source: Trend Micro Consumer Newsletter | Security Tips, Tricks, and Updates