Jennifer Leuer from Protect my ID.com worked with Ponemon Institute and found some starling statistics around medical identity theft. I was shocked to discover the average cost to victims is $20,000.00 while the average bank identity theft cost is $5,000. The reason–it goes unnoticed for a long time–on average it takes a year before the victim discovers a problem–Plus, medical bills are expensive.
40% discovered after reviewing their credit report files.
Most discover a problem after getting a call from a collection agency.
1.4 million people become victims annually
46% of victims do not notify the police
48% of victims lose their medical insurance coverage
55% make out-of-pocket payments, so they won’t lose their coverage
Medical identity theft is complicated because there are many parties involved–the insurance company, the numerous providers (e.g. doctors, labs, pharmacies)–making for countless hours on the phone. It is much more time consuming than bank fraud and it leaves huge emotional scars. It has the same after effects as more violent crimes. It is very violating and emotional because you never know when it is going to stop. It can lead to paranoia. Victims become very unsettled and feel ashamed. It changes your life forever.
It is easy for criminals to get treatment once they get a medical insurance card because it is considered a valid ID when seeking medical treatment. Medical offices will not ask for other identification due to privacy issues.
They go with your name and SSN (Social Security Number) and promise to pay the doctor and the collections company eventually come looking for you. One reason why it is good to look at your credit reports regularly.
Crooks apply for a line of credit in your name and use it to get medical surgeries. First, the lender goes after the doctor, and then the doctor comes after the victim.
Jennifer Leuer’s tips for protecting yourself against medical ID theft:
- Don’t give out your SSN to doctors offices, your medical insurance card is enough
- If you lose your card call for a new medical plan number and card
- Look diligently over your medical insurance statements when sent to you and make sure you understand all the treatments you are being billed for
- View your free credit reports regularly
- Keep that info secure from family and friends. Sad but true–23% knew the thief
- Consider getting identity theft insurance like Protect my ID.com