Medical Identity Theft is on the Rise

Medical identify theft increased by nearly 22 percent in 2014 compared to 2013. And this tough-to-contain realm of fraud will likely continue to grow due to conditions that have created fertile ground for this particular crime.

That’s one of the major takeaways from the fifth annual study of medical identity fraud released by the Ponemon Institute and the Medical Identity Theft Alliance, nonprofits dedicated to investigating the causes and ramifications of medical identify theft and finding ways to counter its spread.

The report does not take into account the Anthem hack, in which as many as 80 million consumers had their personal data stolen.

“Medical identity theft is costly and complex to resolve,” the study concludes.

Among the major outcomes of this study:

  • Health care providers are not doing enough to secure patients' medical records;

  • Health care providers don't respond in a consistent or timely manner when fraud is suspected or has occurred;

  • Medical identify theft victims frequently don't learn that their ID has been stolen until three months following the theft;

  • Once they find out, it often takes months — and an average of 200 hours — to resolve a case;

  • The cost to resolve the average incident is $13,500, a cost often paid by the victim;

  • Many victims either don't know who to report theft to, or are afraid to report it for a variety of reasons;

  • Many victims report their identify was stolen by someone they knew, most likely a relative

  • Consumers and health care organizations believe the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has made medical identify theft more common due to insecure insurance websites;

The study’s authors said that, while often such theft can’t be prevented, there are steps that can be taken to reduce its spread. They include:

  • Monitoring of credit reports and billing statements for evidence of theft;

  • Check in periodically with the primary care physician to ensure accuracy of medical records; When a consumer suspects identity theft, one should contact a professional identity protection provider for follow-up;

  • Education of insured individuals about the risks of sharing medical identity information even with close relatives;

  • Individuals can purchase identity theft protection through companies like ID Watchdog, LifeLock, and Identity Guard. Monthly costs typically range between $9.99 a month and $29.99 a month.

  • Healthcare and other organizations that are responsible for securing patient information should have special insurance policies to cover data breach of customer information, as well as policies, procedures and systems in place to protect identity theft for all current and past patients seeking services.

The full study, about this growing threat, can be found here.

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