When you read an account of the devastating “Black Death” Plague that spread across Europe and Asia in Medieval times, it’s impossible not to be awed by the statistics. In just five years, one-third of Europe’s population, 25 million people, were dead. It hit so fast and so unexpectedly that people were unable to protect themselves. As one writer summarized, “A terrible killer was loose across Europe, and medieval medicine had nothing to combat it.”
While experiencing medical identity theft isn’t always as devastating as dying from the plague, it’s easy to draw some parallels.
Both affect people in such a way that they are completely unaware of it until it is often too late? Check.
It can spread unexpectedly fast? Check.
The victims are not limited to one group, whether by country, age, race, or socioeconomic class? Check.
Today marks the start of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). As with any new, massive, government-sponsored program, scammers and identity thieves will try to take advantage of the public’s confusion and unfamiliarity with the new Health Exchanges (which we’re calling Obamacare Identity Theft).
Medical Identity Theft Expert John Sileo speaks with Fox and Friends about how to avoid medical identity theft, and whether or not it can kill you. Luckily, even if medical identity theft could theoretically kill you, there are excellent and easy steps you can take to catch it early or prevent it entirely. Watch the video and then comment below with your questions or expertise.
There has been a great deal in the news about medical identity theft leading to death. Is it possible? Yes. Is it likely? Less likely than dying of a heart attack because you eat too much bacon. But let’s explore the possibility of death by medical identity theft (below, in this article), and why the threat gets sensationalized (in the video).
Healthcare data breaches are on the rise, 32% over last year. Though some may find this to be alarming, there is a school of thought that this is actually good news and that we are identifying breaches that perhaps went unnoticed in the past. However, the fact remains that breaches are on the rise, statistically, and many organizations fear they lack the infrastructure and budget to protect patient privacy.
The study found the reasons for growing data breaches in healthcare organizations to include:
employee mistakes and sloppiness
lost or stolen mobile computing devices
unintentional employee action
On average, it is estimated that data breaches cost benchmarked organizations $2,243,700. This represents an increase of $183,526 from the 2010 study, despite healthcare organizations’ increased compliance with federal regulations. Respondents in the study noted relying less on an “ad hoc’ process to prevent or detect data breach incidents and are relying more on policies, procedures and security.
You’ve heard it all before – conduct online business through secure Wi-Fi only, watch your incoming mail for erroneous credit invitations, check your statements and your credit reports, and set up strong passwords and alerts, yada yada! But here are a few additional times you’ll want to be vigilant, especially this holiday season!
Car Loans. According to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, auto loan identity theft is twice as high as any other form. Most dealerships have you complete paperwork with identifying personal data (name, address, date of birth, phone number) up to and including a loan application, which likely includes your Social Security Number. How is this data handled? Unless you actually purchase the vehicle, and your paperwork becomes part of a permanent file, refuse to complete it. Most dealerships simply toss your paperwork after 30 days if you don’t make a purchase. Their trash receptacle then becomes a pre-qualified source for identity thieves.
Medical records are one-stop shopping for identity thieves. There is no need to slowly gather bits and pieces of someone’s personal information – it’s all packaged together: Social Security number, name, address, phone number, even payment accounts. Crooks have received everything from medication to a liver transplant using a stolen identity. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg! More than just medical treatment is at stake. Once a thief’s medical information is entered into your records, it’s extremely difficult to get rid of that information. It’s conceivable, for example, that at a later date, you’ll need a Type A blood transfusion but be given the thief’s Type B with dire consequences.
Why pay for Health Insurance when you can steal it?
As the economy dropped severely in 2009, the instances of Identity Theft continued to rise. With desperate times and individuals struggling, Medical Identity Theft and Health Insurance Fraud reports by emergency rooms have been higher than normal over the past several months. According to Javelin Strategy and Research, in 2009 Medical Record Theft had the longest length of time, 493 days, between the theft and detection by the insured. This also led to the highest fraud amount of $18,480 and the largest mean consumer cost of $2987. That means the average consumer that suffers from Medical Identity Theft pays almost $3000 of his own money to resolve the theft! This shows how the financial repercussions of Medical Identity Fraud are the largest among Identity Fraud types.
Only in California! A Huntington Beach woman used another woman’s identity to pay for breast implants and liposuction. At first glance, it’s a laughable story. But imagine being the woman who has to prove that she wasn’t the augmentation recipient! Remember, with identity theft, you are guilty until you prove yourself innocent. Medical identity theft will take us to new and embarrassing depths in order to prove that we are innocent. It will give new meaning to the phrase “bearing witness”. And it prompts the question of why we don’t have a set of universal rules that govern our personally identifying information?
On a related note, I recently became involved with the Santa Fe Group which published an excellent white paper informally known as the Identity Theft Bill of Rights. Registering for a download of the paper is well worth your time – it does an excellent job of summarizing the identity theft issues that we, as Americans, face in the coming years. It includes discussions about modifying language in HIPAA to protect against medical identity theft crimes similar to and far more serious than the Huntington Beach case.
As our population grows older on the shoulders of the baby boomers, medical identity theft and its cousins will become ever more prevalent and damaging. Help us fight for our identity rights by getting involved. Start by registering for a webinar put on by the Santa Fe Group called: