Living well Your Health & Wellness

How to protect your health data from identity theft?

Written by Diane Archer

Today Electronic Medical Records (EMRs), Electronic Health Records (EHRs) and health apps for smart phones all contain hundreds of millions of pieces of personal data on tens of millions of patients. And, lots of this data is being hacked. Why? It offers more value than credit cards to criminal hackers. In 2015, data was hacked from 78.8 million Anthem customers alone. What should you be concerned about and how can you protect your health care data?

While alive:

Believe it or not, criminal hackers are stealing people’s health care data to get free medical care and prescriptions. And, it can take a toll on both people’s health and your finances.

  • What should you be concerned about? 
    • If your health insurance information is stolen,
      • You may end up with huge medical bills. Criminals may try to use your insurance to buy medications or get medical care. They may rack up huge bills under your name, and you may end up having to try to undo them or worse yet, having to pay them.
      • Your health care could be at risk. Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) may be compromised, filled with health care information from the criminals fraudulently using your health insurance; and, this could lead to an improper diagnosis and treatment, jeopardizing your care.
      • You could be identified as responsible for someone else’s insurance fraud. If the criminals are buying narcotics in huge quantities under your name, for example, you could be on the hook. According to Consumer Reports, that’s what happened to one woman two years after her purse was stolen with her health insurance card inside it. Fortunately, she had filed a police report, and she was able to use that to show that it was not she who had been buying the narcotics. But, it cost her a lot of time, $1,500 in fees and five years to clear herself of the drug arrest.
    • If your Medicare card is stolen, your risks can be all the greater because your Medicare number is generally your Social Security number. Criminals value your Medicare card much more than your credit card. Your Medicare EMR can be worth $500 on the black market.
  • What can you do?
    • If your health insurance card is lost or stolen, be sure to notify your health insurer. Ask your insurer to issue you a new one with a new number.
    • If your health insurance card is stolen, also notify the police.
    • If you have Medicare, make a copy of your Medicare card and put it in your wallet with the last four digits of your Medicare number, usually your SSN, blacked out.
    • Review your health insurer’s explanation of benefits notices to be sure that you received the services listed and, if you did not, reach out to the doctor listed on the notice and/or your insurer.
    • If you receive an email from what appears to be a legitimate source requesting your health insurance information or Medicare number, do not provide it. Contact your insurer or Medicare directly. Most likely, the email is a scam.
    • If you receive an email from what appears to be a legitimate source requesting you to click on a link, do not click on it. Contact the source directly. If it’s a scam, clicking on the link could give the scammers access to all the information on your computer.
    • Go to www.identitytheft.gov, the Federal Trade Commission site that helps protect you against identity fraud.

After death: Hackers steal the identities of millions of Americans after they die each year.

  • What can you do? 
    • After a loved one passes, be sure to contact his or her health insurers as well as Social Security and all credit card providers to let them know.
    • To reduce the risk of having a loved one’s identity stolen, the IRS recommends that you:
      • Send the IRS a copy of the death certificate, so that the IRS knows to flag the person has died.
      • Send copies of the death certificate to each credit reporting bureau asking them to put a “deceased alert” on your loved one’s credit report.
      • Review the deceased’s credit report for questionable credit card activity.
      • Avoid putting too much information in an obituary, such as birth date, address, mother’s maiden name or other personally identifying information that could be useful to identity thieves.

Here’s more from Just Care:

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1 Comment

  • First off, let’s correct one thing in this article: You are NEVER responsible for fraudulent charges on credit cards, health insurance, etc.
    Period. If it was not you who made those charges the laws currently on the books say “You are not responsible and it is up to the health care provider, insurance company, etc. to find the criminal who used your insurance illegitimately!”
    Second, all you need to prevent this is a directory of people with a PICTURE updated every single year of the person in question!
    Impossible to do fraudulent charges when there is a picture on the secondary I.D. or on the website of the health insurer in question.

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