Medical identity theft poses new risks

(WAVE) - With all the privacy laws and safeguards in place, you'd think your medical records are safe from ID thieves.  A new report shows some of those protection could actually be putting you at risk.

The government says 9 million people are victims of ID theft every year and a growing number of case have to do with crooks pretending to be you and heading to the doctor.

It's not unusual for a hospital to be a hotbed of activity.  At the center of it all, people like you in need of medical help.

With you comes all of your most sensitive and powerful personal, financial and medical information.

Bill Kallio is with AARP and says the complication with medical identity theft can often alter your personal medical record. It's estimated a quarter million Americans have been medical ID theft victims. However, it's a crime that hasn't garnered much attention.

By definition, medical identity theft is when someone uses your name or other info, like a social security number or health insurance number, to get health care services for themselves or to make false claims for medical treatment.

"A false impersonator could be receiving medical or pharmaceutical attention for a condition and trying to bill it bogusly to you," Kallio said.  "That appears on your medical records as a pharmaceutical record."

That could pose a threat to your medical care.  If a doctor believes everything on your record relates to you, and it actually doesn't, it could impact your treatment.

Kallio said you have to protect yourself.  When you receive your medical summary statement or explanation of benefits, read it!

"They just get and if there's no out of pocket money involved, they ignore it. But you should be looking at that. Make sure everything on there are services you've received, products you've order," Kallio explained.

Also request copies of your medical files from each of your health care providers.  There may be a fee.

Protect your health insurance card just like you would a credit card. Review your credit report twice a year because at the end of the day the crooks are after your money.

There's growing concern that the push for electronic medical record-keeping could make it easier for computer hackers to get at your information, making it even more important to be a strong advocate for privacy on your own behalf.

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