Guarding Your Medical Identification

Personal data theft is growing!

As a provider of private duty home care in the Palm Beaches and most of South Florida, we constantly speak with clients who have had great concerns with the protection of their medical data.

The news headlines are dominated with stories about financial identity theft.  However, there’s a much bigger threat that goes beyond threats to your bank account.  It’s medical identity theft, and it’s increased nearly 20 percent last year.  The concept involves individuals who use your personal and insurance information to get treatment or medication.  In more severe cases, they will submit false billings in your name.  Unlike credit card fraud (in which the banks/issuers absorb most, if not all, of the bogus charges), there are no such protections with medical identity theft.

According to a recent study, approximately 36 percent of theft victims in 2013 incurred out-of-pocket expenses that averaged $18,660!  Individuals may lose their health insurance, or have to pay higher premiums to restore it.  Last year alone, nearly half of all data breaches involving identity theft in the United States were related to medical data.

According to the head of the Counter threat Unit of Dell SecureWorks, stolen medical credentials are more valuable to the black market where data is bought and sold.  Personal data containing everything needed to commit financial identity theft (which would include a person’s Social Security number and bank account numbers) would fetch approximately $25 on the black market, whereas stolen health and medical records may fetch upwards of $2000.

When signing with any medical organization – whether it be a hospital, doctor visit or in-home care company – consider these steps to protect yourself and help spot potential problems.

Talk to Your Insurance CompaniesLong-Term Care Insurance Policy Jupiter Fl

Once a year, make a point to contact your insurers and request a listing of benefits paid out in your name.  Make sure that all of the information is accurate, including your address!

Read Every Letter

We all get junk mail and it’s easy to throw seemingly non-threatening junk mail in the trash.  And for those who suffer the onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease, many critical letters may wind up accidentally thrown away.  But take the time to read every letter from medical insurers and health care providers.  Always take the time to review those letters that say “this is not a bill.”  If you see a doctor’s name or a treatment date that seems suspicious, be sure to notify your insurance company immediately.  And don’t hesitate to contact the doctor on the bill to get more information.

Guard Your Health Insurance Card Health-Insurance-Card

Health insurance cards should always carry the same level of importance that you would have for your credit cards and bank account numbers.  Keep track of where the card is.  If you accidentally lose your wallet, immediately contact your insurance provider.  They are extremely helpful in these situations and can save you a lot of heartache!

Carry a Copy of Your Medicare Card

Often, people will carry their original copy of their Medicare card.  DON’T.  Your Medicare card also has your Social Security number attached to it.  Make a photocopy of the card and blank out the beginning of your Social Security card.  This way, should it ever get stolen, the thieves won’t have complete access to your information.

Avoid Unfamiliar Health Fairs or Storefronts

Any time you hear an offer that seems too good to be true, it probably is.  Be wary of offers for free screenings by unfamiliar storefronts, especially if they require your insurance information.  Always hang up on any random phone calls when the conversation turns to asking for your particulars and private information, especially those that come with a promise of free supplies.

Keep Your Own Medical File

Always ask your doctors to make copies of everything in your file.  Granted, you may have to pay for them, but you’ll have a paper trail if you ever need it.

Let Common Sense Be Your Guide

Whether you are checking in for a physician’s appointment, getting medication from the pharmacist, or any number of other instances that require you give your personal insurance and health information, always use common sense.  If you have a funny feeling about somebody requesting your information, then it’s best to wait and get a family member to help you get the right and trustworthy answers.

If you have live-in care, be sure to communicate any concerns to your caregiver.  A quality caregiver will often check with their home office to guide you through  any issues regarding your personal information.

 

 

 

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