Identity theft has been well covered in the media, and most consumers know to protect their personal information, including social security numbers, birthdates, driver’s licenses, and credit card numbers. But did you know that a health insurance card could be just as dangerous in the wrong person’s hands? And, as a physician, you may become an unwitting pawn in their sinister deeds.
According to a Federal Trade Commission consumer bulletin, medical identity theft is when someone uses your information to obtain a consultation with a doctor, purchase medical devices, submit false insurance claims, or obtain prescription drugs. The information sources that can be stolen to accomplish this include Medicare, social security, or even health insurance account numbers.
From a medical perspective, a stolen medical identity can lead to corrupted medical records for a patient in which false information could compromise future treatment. There have also been cases of innocent people being arrested because someone has stolen their medical identity and used it to purchase an overabundance of prescription drugs in their name.
Just because you’re a physician, doesn’t mean you’re immune to this type of crime. In fact, if you are affiliated with a hospital and have great medical benefits as a result, you may be perceived as a desirable target. Some ways to protect yourself include:
- Keep your medical information in a safe place.
- Blot out the personal information on prescription bottles.
- Shred all discarded medical documents.
- Be alert to any red flags from your insurance plan, such as notifications that you have exceeded your allotted health benefits.
- Be cautious to whom you give your medical information. For example, never hand out medical information to an unprompted caller.
And like your credit report, check your medical records periodically to make sure no new diagnoses, treatments, or procedures have been added.