Who would’ve thought a trip to the doctor’s office to cure what ails you could end up compromising your financial health? More and more consumers are finding that to be the case.
Medical records theft is the fastest growing form of identity theft. Medical records are highly susceptible to threats and fraudulent activity as they contain extremely valuable personal, credit and protected health information all in one place. Your doctor’s office has your name, address, phone numbers and social security number – a virtual gold mine to identity thieves.
That information is accessible at many points along the path from healthcare provider to patient billing to claims processing, and it’s a data-rich environment for cyberthieves dealing in stolen information.
The healthcare industry is experiencing a surge in data breaches, leaving millions of patients and their medical records exposed. According to the Protenus Breach Barometer, 2016 averaged at least one health data breach per day, affecting more than 27 million patient records. Cybercriminals used hacking and ransomware, a type of malicious software, to commit 26.8 percent of all 2016 health data breaches.
The symptoms of medical identity theft vary. For instance, you may get a bill for treatment you didn’t receive, you are denied insurance for a condition you don’t have, or your credit reports show past due medical bills that aren’t yours. To make matters even worse, recovery can be a painful and prolonged process. Victims spend an average of 200 hours and $13,450 out of pocket to resolve medical identity theft.
In today’s data-driven environment, no one is completely immune to identity theft. But there are steps you can take to help safeguard your environment. Just as with your physical health, screening and early detection are critical to minimizing damage to your credit and financial health should identity thieves strike. Credit monitoring can help by alerting you to suspicious activity or changes on your credit reports that may signal a potential threat.