The Scary Truth About Medical Identity Theft

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Nobody wants to get a hospital bill for $44,000. But for Joe Ryan, a Colorado pilot and owner of Rocky Mountain Biplane Adventures, it was especially upsetting. He’d never even had surgery before, but he was being asked to pay for it. Ryan’s “medical identity” had been stolen.

When someone uses your personal information to collect money, insurance companies.

Dixon says that criminals even set up fake clinics, or buy real ones, as a cover. Victims may not know it’s happened until they are denied coverage for a pre-existing medical condition that they don’t have.

“It’s very lucrative,” Dixon says. Done over six months to a year, it can net $1 million to $2 million — which makes credit card theft look like small change.

And now that medical records are going electronic, stealing them is getting easier.

“Before, you couldn’t steal a million paper files from a hospital,” she says. “Now you can walk out with a million digital files on your iPod.”

More than two years later, Ryan remains frustrated. “I still can’t get my medical records straightened out,” he says. And he has the emotional scars to prove it.

Arm Yourself

Federal confidentiality laws meant to protect you can actually make it harder for you to see what’s in your own corrupted records. Dixon offers this advice:

  • Get a copy of your medical records, in case they are tampered with in the future.
  • Every year, ask your insurance company for a complete list of payments it has made for your medical care.
  • Call (877) 322-8228 or go to www.annualcreditreport.com. A current credit report will alert you to any suspicious activity.