Medical identity theft becoming growing issue - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Medical identity theft becoming growing issue

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

As the primary caregiver for his wife, Peter Rosenberger says he sees countless medical bills that come in each month.

"When you're dealing with 60-plus doctors at 12 hospitals, you get a lot of bills, a lot of what we call EOBs, explanation of benefits," he said.

With all the personal information listed, he says he's extra careful to protect his wife's identity.

"I shred all the receipts from the pharmacy, and several times on there is a lot of personal information," Rosenberger said.

The flurry of information on various receipts and forms could leave customers vulnerable to medical identity theft.

"With regular identity theft, people are often opening credit accounts, for example, credit cards. They're charging up things. Those charges fall back on the companies often to resolve them," said Tara Shaver, communications director for AARP.

But a stolen medical identity can be much harder to track.

"You may be getting an influx of charges, especially if your situation gets really complex, and you may overlook something. You may pay a bill and not be really clear on where it came from," Shaver said.

The AARP has listed some tips to prevent medical identity theft:

  • Read every letter from medical insurers and health care providers, including those that say "this is not a bill." If you see a doctor's name or treatment date that isn't familiar, speak up.
  • Once a year, ask your insurers for a listing of benefits paid out in your name. Make sure everything is accurate, including your address.
  • When you review your credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com, look for medical items. Contact your insurer and the three major credit reporting firms - Equifax, Experian and TransUnion - about any falsehoods.
  • Guard your health insurance card and number as carefully as you would a credit card or bank account number. If you lose your wallet, immediately contact your insurance provider.
  • Don't routinely carry your Medicare card, which lists your Social Security number. Make a photocopy and hide some of the number's digits.
  • Ask all of your doctors to make copies of everything in your file (you may have to pay for them) so you'll have a "paper trail" if needed.
  • Avoid unfamiliar health fairs or storefronts offering free screenings that require your insurance information. Hang up on phone calls promising free supplies or from "officials" asking for your particulars.

If someone has stolen your medical identity, the AARP says they can use your insurance to buy medicine, devices and even pay for surgeries in your name. It's important to make sure that all charges you receive are legitimate and that they correspond with services you actually received.

"The same protections that you use for your credit cards and for your ID, you want to use for everything that allows you to access your medical care," Shaver said.

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