Medical Identity Theft Is On The Rise
Identity thieves are increasingly looking beyond stealing identities to open credit card and other financial accounts. In recent years, using stolen identities to obtain medical treatment, prescription drugs and insurance reimbursements has become a growing trend.
Medical-related identity theft reported in 2013 surpassed crime rates related to stolen banking, finance, government, military or education information, according to an article from Kaiser Health News.
Medical-related identity theft accounted for 43 percent of all identity theft reports in the United States last year, Kaiser reports. Medical records of between 27.8 and 67.7 million people were breached since the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services started documenting records of the thefts in 2009.
The Healthcare Financial Management Association reports that more than 7 million patient health care records were breached in 2013—the highest number since 10.8 million breaches were reported in 2011.
Medical identity theft occurs when someone’s personal information, including their name, Social Security number, date of birth and address, is used obtain medical treatment, prescription drugs or insurance reimbursements without their knowledge or consent.
“Medical identity theft is a growing and dangerous crime that leaves its victims with little to no recourse for recovery,” Pam Dixon, founder and executive director of World Privacy Forum, told Kaiser. “Victims often experience financial repercussions and worse yet, they frequently discover erroneous information has been added to their personal medical files due to the thief’s activities.”
The theft of a computer or other electronic device is involved in more than 50 percent of medical data breaches, according to data from HHS in the article. Twenty percent of medical identity thefts are due to unauthorized access to information or passing it on without permission and hacking is the cause of 14 percent of data breaches.
James Pyles, a Washington, D.C., lawyer specializing in health issues, told Kaiser it is difficult to have incorrect information removed from medical records.
“It’s almost impossible to clear up a medical record once medical identity theft has occurred,” Pyles said. “If someone is getting false information into your file, theirs gets laces with yours and it’s impossible to segregate what information is about you and what is about them.”