6 steps to protect yourself against medical identity theft
CONTENT PROVIDED BY IDENTITYPROTECTOR
According to a recent study, 1 in 3 of us have already been victims of medical identity theft. A lot of that is from the massive data breaches suffered by the country’s biggest health companies, such as the Anthem breach. But some of the most harmful breaches are the ones we rarely hear about, because they involve much smaller numbers at local medical offices around the country.
These small businesses don’t have a team security experts protecting their data, they may not run background checks on all their employees, and they probably don’t understand the risks of identity theft as well as they should. All of which make them perfect targets for identity thieves, particularly someone on the inside.
You can’t really avoid going to the doctors, but you can protect yourself. IdentityProtector monitors your credit file and alerts you when we detect a variety of potential misuses of your private information. And when you have to give out your information to a doctor of health insurance provider, take these six steps to prevent medical identity theft:
Ask How They Secure Your Information
Be up front with your doctor, and let them know you’re concerned about identity theft. Ask:
• How they secure their medical records,
• How often they update their computer software, and
• Do they have a breach response plan?
If your doctor can’t answer these questions, you may want to see another provider. If that’s not an option, let them know the risk they’re taking by not having better protection in place. According to a recent study by IBM Security, a data breach costs companies an average of $221 per stolen record. Even for a small doctor’s office, that could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Only Provide Information When Necessary
Most doctor’s offices ask for your Social Security number before they provide services, but many of them don’t need it. Many offices are only asking for this information because of an outdated rule or to help them obtain payment from your insurance provider, when all they really need is your insurance card information. Before you provide anyone with your Social Security number, ask the receptionist—and their boss—what it will be used for. And remember, just because they ask for it, doesn’t mean you have to provide it.
Protect Your Family’s Information
You’re not the only one at risk from medical identity theft. It’s not uncommon for medical providers to ask for your spouse’s information (including Social Security number), even when you’re the one getting treatment. This is particularly true if your insurance is through your spouse. But remember, they probably don’t need all this information.
It’s especially important to be cautious with your child’s information, because children are at increased risk of identity theft. Avoid giving out your child’s Social Security number unless absolutely necessary and be watchful for any unusual activity. IdentityProtector can help. We alert you when fraudulent names, aliases and addresses become associated with your child’s Social Security number, or if we detect the creation of a credit file associated with your child’s SSN.
Don’t Give Out Your Information Over the Phone
If someone calls you claiming to be from your insurance company, doctor’s office, or Medicare, do not provide any personal information, especially your Social Security number. Instead, hang up and call the company back directly using the phone number from their official website, your insurance card, or your most recent statement. Never call a number given to you by the person who called—that could be a fake number.
Monitor Your Credit Card Statements
When most people think of medical identity theft, they don’t think of their credit cards. This could happen because of an unsecure network, or it could be the work of someone on staff —internal fraud is one of the largest drivers behind medical identity theft. Avoid giving out your credit card information over the phone—because you can’t see what the person on the other end is doing with that information—and keep an eye on the staff when they swipe your card. And, of course, check your statements carefully at least once a month and immediately report any unusual activity.
Don’t Fight Identity Fraud Alone
There are proactive steps you can take yourself to fight identity theft. You can set up fraud alerts, monitor your checking and credit cards accounts, and order your free credit reports every year. Unfortunately, most of us don’t do these things—or we start to and then forget to continue. Plus, these steps only provide so much protection.
Subscribing to an identity theft protection service, such as IdentityProtector, ensures that your information is continuously monitored, even if you forget. It also provides additional protections, such as searching black market websites—which are often used to sell information obtained in a data breach—for your information, as well as Fraud Resolution Assistance to help you take back control if your information is ever compromised.
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