6 Repercussions of Soaring Medical Identity Theft
An estimated 2.3 million Americans were victims of medical identity theft in 2014, up nearly 22 percent in the past year, a recent survey projects. Most of these individuals had their medical identity stolen or willingly gave their credentials to a family member or friend and then became a victim. Results were based on an annual survey of more than 1,000 adult-aged individuals who self-reported they or close family members were victims of medical identity theft. The Medical Identity Fraud Alliance released results of its fifth survey, which was sponsored by Kaiser Permanente, ID Experts, Experian Data Breach Resolution, and Identity Finder, and conducted by Ponemon Institute, a research organization. Here are key takeaways. (Photo: Fotolia)
1. Medical identity theft is costly to consumers.
Unlike credit card fraud, victims of medical identity theft can suffer significant financial consequences. Some 65 percent of medical identity theft victims in the study had to pay an average of $13,500 to resolve the crime. In some cases, they paid the healthcare provider, repaid the insurer for services obtained by the thief, or they engaged an identity service provider or legal counsel to help resolve the incident and prevent future fraud. (Photo: Fotolia)
2. Medical identity theft is a complicated crime to resolve.
Healthcare providers or insurers seldom inform victims about medical identity theft. On average, victims learn about the theft of their credentials more than three months after the crime, and 30 percent do not know when they became a victim. Of the 54 percent of respondents who found an error in their Explanation of Benefits, about half did not know to whom to report the claim. (Photo: Fotolia)
3. Resolution of medical identity theft is time-consuming.
Because of HIPAA privacy regulations, victims of medical identity theft must be involved in the resolution of the crime. In many cases, victims struggle to resolve a medical identity theft incident. Research suggests that only 10 percent of respondents report achieving a completely satisfactory conclusion of the incident. Consequently, many respondents are at risk for future theft or errors in healthcare records that could jeopardize medical treatments and diagnosis. Those who have resolved the crime worked an average of more than 200 hours with an insurer or provider to secure personal medical credentials, and verify the accuracy of their medical and payment records. (Photo: Fotolia)
4. Medical identity theft can negatively affect a victim’s reputation.
Forty-five percent of respondents say medical identity theft affected their reputation, primarily because of embarrassment related to the disclosure of sensitive personal health conditions. Nineteen percent of respondents believe the theft caused them to miss on career opportunities. Three percent say it resulted in the loss of employment. (Photo: Fotolia)
5. Consumers expect providers to prevent and detect incidents.
Although many respondents are not confident in the security practices of their healthcare providers, 79 percent of respondents say it is important for providers to ensure the privacy of their health records. Forty-eight percent say they would consider changing providers if their medical records were lost or stolen. If such a breach occurred, 40 percent say prompt notification by the organization responsible for safeguarding this information is important. (Photo: Fotolia)
6. Steps consumers and providers can take to slow growth of identity theft.
Consumers should be informed about what they can do to prevent medical identity theft, including protecting their credentials from family and friends; monitoring their healthcare records; and paying attention to insurance claims for indications that their identity has been compromised. One quarter of responding victims knowingly permitted a family member or friend to use their personal identification to obtain medical services, and 24 percent said a family member took credentials without consent.

Healthcare providers and government have a responsibility to ensure the security of the personal information they collect. This is clearly a concern for respondents, as 55 percent say regulations under the Affordable Care Act increase their chances of becoming a victim of medical identity theft, in part because of increased use of information systems that may not be adequately secured. (Photo: Fotolia)
For a copy of the Fifth Annual Study on Medical Identity Theft click here .