Study: Few Aware of Medical Identity Theft Risk

June 14, 2012

While it’s the fastest-growing type of identity theft, a new Nationwide Insurance survey reveals few people know what medical identity theft is or how devastating it can be to your credit and your health.

The national telephone survey commissioned by Nationwide Insurance was conducted by Harris Interactive in February among 2,001 adults with health insurance. It found only 15 percent of insured adults say they are familiar with medical identity theft. Of those familiar with medical identity theft, only 38 percent could correctly define “medical identity.”

“A stolen medical identity has a $50 street value – whereas a stolen social security number, on the other hand, only sells for $1,” said Kirk Herath, Nationwide chief privacy officer. “However, while most people are very careful with their social security number to protect their credit and personal information, they tend to be less careful when it comes to their medical information.”

Medical identity theft occurs when one person steals another’s medical information to obtain or pay for health care treatment. It’s a crime that can have a serious impact on your personal, financial and medical well being.

According to the World Privacy Foundation, medical identity theft has affected 1.5 million Americans at a cost of more than $30 billion.

If someone steals medical information they can illegally use a person’s health care insurance to obtain medical care, buy prescription drugs or submit false insurance claims in the person’s name.

Devastating Consequences, Difficult Recovery

According to the Nationwide survey, more than half of insured adults said it’s likely that their credit card or credit card number would be stolen, while only one-third say they expect their medical identification to be stolen.

About one in five believe the most likely consequence would be that their health insurance could be cancelled, when in reality hazardous changes could be made to their medical records compromising their health.

“These are warning signs that should not be ignored,” Herath said. “The cost and time associated with cleaning up a medical account is sizeable.”

The personal expense of resolving a medical identity theft is about $20,000, according to actual victims. The same victims also said they had spent four to six months resolving the theft.

More than half of the study participants underestimated how long it would take to restore their medical identity. Nineteen percent or about 1 in 5 said it would take less than two weeks. And more than half underestimated or didn’t know how much it would cost.

When it comes to taking proactive measures to review their medical records for errors, 75 percent of study participants “trust” that their medical records are correct.

“Blind faith in a medical record is risky behavior,” Herath said. “Nationwide Insurance recommends being as knowledgeable about your medical records as you are about your financial reports.”

Source” Nationwide Insurance

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