Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[News article] The Rise of Medical Identity Theft

From the 7 February 2014 Stateline news article 

By Michael Ollove, Staff Writer

A young woman retrieves a patient’s medical records at the Family Health Center in Louisville, Ky. The theft of personal medical information, whether paper-based or electronic, is a large and growing problem. (Getty)

If modern technology has ushered in a plague of identity theft, one particular strain of the disease has emerged as most virulent: medical identity theft.

Last month the Identity Theft Resource Centerproduced a surveyshowing that breaches of medical records involving personal information accounted for 43 percent of all records breaches involving personal information reported in the United States in 2013. That is a far greater chunk of record breaches than those involving banking and finance, the government and the military or education.

The definition of medical identity theft is the fraudulent acquisition of someone’s personal information – name, Social Security number, health insurance number – for the purpose of illegally obtaining medical services or devices, insurance reimbursements or prescription drugs.

“Medical identity theft is a growing and dangerous crime that leaves its victims with little to no recourse for recovery,” said Pam Dixon, the founder and executive director of World Privacy Forum. “Victims often experience financial repercussions and worse yet, they frequently discover erroneous information has been added to their personal medical files due to the thief’s activities.”

The Affordable Care Act has raised the stakes. One of the main concerns swirling around the disastrous rollout of federal and state health insurance exchanges last fall was whether the malfunctioning online marketplaces were compromising the confidentiality of Americans’ medical information.  Meanwhile, the law’s emphasis on digitizing medical records, touted as a way to boost efficiency and cut costs, comes amid intensifying concerns over the security of computer networks.

Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who has disclosed the agency’s activities to the media, says the NSA has cracked the encryption used to protect the medical records of millions of Americans.

Multiple Motives

Thieves have used stolen medical information for all sorts of nefarious reasons, according to information collected by World Privacy Forum, a research group that seeks to educate consumers about privacy risks. For example:

  • A Massachusetts psychiatrist created false diagnoses of drug addiction and severe depression for people who were not his patients in order to submit medical insurance claims for psychiatric sessions that never occurred. One man discovered the false diagnoses when he applied for a job. He hadn’t even been a patient.
  • An identity thief in Missouri used the information of actual people to create false driver’s licenses in their names. Using one of them, she was able to enter a regional health center, obtain the health records of a woman she was impersonating, and leave with a prescription in the woman’s name.
  • An Ohio woman working in a dental office gained access to protected information of Medicaid patients in order to illegally obtain prescription drugs.
  • A Pennsylvania man found that an imposter had used his identity at five different hospitals in order to receive more than $100,000 in treatment. At each spot, the imposter left behind a medical history in his victim’s name.
  • A Colorado man whose Social Security number, name and address had been stolen received a bill for $44,000 for a surgery he not undergone.

 

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February 9, 2014 - Posted by | health care | , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. Reblogged this on Failure to Listen and commented:
    “Medical identity theft is a growing and dangerous crime that leaves its victims with little to no recourse for recovery,” said Pam Dixon, the founder and executive director of World Privacy Forum. “Victims often experience financial repercussions and worse yet, they frequently discover erroneous information has been added to their personal medical files due to the thief’s activities.”

    Comment by Angela Grant | February 9, 2014 | Reply

  2. […] Health and Medical News and Resources General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff Health and Medical News and Resources Identity Theft Resource Center Janice Flahiff medical identity theft […]

    Pingback by [News article] The Rise of Medical Identity Theft | Failure to Listen | February 9, 2014 | Reply


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