While identity theft can take many forms, medical identity theft is not only a complex crime, but devastating for victims. A new report revealed the number of medical identity theft victims surged almost 22 percent in 2014, with more than 2 million victims total, according to the Medical Identity Fraud Alliance. The Fifth Annual Study on Medical Identity Theft found an upward trend of patients affected by medical identity theft that will likely continue into 2015 as hackers target the health care sector, ThirdCertainty reported.
"2015 will be a year of increased attention to the pervasiveness and damaging effects of medical identity theft," Ann Patterson, MIFA senior vice president and program director, said in a statement.
With medical identity theft likely to have a significant impact this year, patients should guard their information.
Here are three ways to fight against medical identity theft:
1. Do Not Share Medical Information
While you may think your information is safe to share online, avoid putting out any medical details that could be used by an identity thief. Do not post any medical information on social media sites like Twitter or Facebook, which could lead to this data being sold to strangers, The Washington Post reported in 2014.
2. Look for the Signs of Medical Identity Theft
When patients become victims of medical identity theft, many may don't know until three months after the crime happened, the MIFA study stated. Although the MIFA report said the majority of consumers believe their health care provider will prevent and detect medical identity theft, consumers should protect their credit by looking for suspicious activity. These signs include receiving a bill for medical services you did not obtain or notices for medical debt collection, according to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. Do not brush off this as simply a mistake and follow up on these indicators that you may be a victim of identity theft.
3. Be Active in Correcting Errors on Your Credit Report
In case you do find your information misused, you should challenge negative items on your credit report that you were not responsible for, such as items in collection. Write a letter or fill out a form to one of the three main credit reporting bureaus stating that you were a victim of medical identity theft and provide a detailed statement and evidence proving your claim.
Brett Montgomery is a fraud operations manager at CyberScout.