Medical Identity Theft a Growing Concern
Hillsborough County officials are trying to spread the word about this trend.
Imagine getting billed by a hospital for a surgery that was never performed or finding out you’ve been denied insurance coverage because of a pre-existing condition you just don’t have.
That’s a reality victims of medical identity theft are living with and it’s one the Hillsborough County Consumer Protection Agency is trying to warn residents about. Medical identity theft is a growing concern in Tampa Bay and towns across the country, said Kevin Jackson, chief investigator for the county agency.
“Whether it is internal theft by employees of medical facilities stealing personal consumer information to sell, or thieves using someone else's information to obtain medical care: medical identity theft is here and we all need to be wary of it,” Jackson said.
Medical identity theft can include the theft of personal, insurance or medical information. That information is then used to illegally obtain or fund medical treatments, buy prescription drugs, submit false insurance claims or even have elective surgeries performed, according to the agency.
While insurance companies are typically major targets of this type of crime, individuals can also suffer damages, as well, Jackson said.
“Regardless of who ends up paying the financial costs of a particular medical identity theft scenario, the consumer can still have serious problems,” he said. “Future medical procedures can be denied; inaccurate medical conditions can be tied to your health records; your credit rating can be damaged; and it's possible future insurability can be affected.”
There are things people can do to safeguard their information.
“Watch out for telephone, email and regular mail solicitations which may look innocent at first glance, but ask for personal, medical or financial information,” Jackson warned.
These thieves, Jackson said, can be rather tricky in their tactics, too.
“Identity thieves can pose as employees for insurance companies and doctor's offices, so it's best to confirm who's contacting you before giving out any personal information. Tech savvy thieves may try and exploit a consumer's computer; therefore, it's important to have in place updated computer security software, malware and spyware.”