- Identity theft is a huge problem in this country, not only for the living but for the deceased as well. Thieves steal Social Security numbers and other identity information and then apply for credit in the name of someone else. It can take years to untangle the ensuing mess that occurs once the theft has been discovered. A book, shortly to be released by Die Smart, “Grave Robbers – How to Prevent Identity Theft of the Deceased”, gives valuable information on what to do so this doesn’t happen to the identity of a family member or other loved one who has died.
There’s another kind of identity theft, one that’s not as well known but equally as critical an issue – that of medical identity theft. It occurs when someone steals your personal information (like your name, Social Security number or Medicare number) in order to obtain medical care, buy drugs or submit fake billings to Medicare in your name.
In addition to disrupting your lie and damaging your credit rating, the damage can be life threatening to you if the wrong information ends up in your medical records.
There are steps you can take to stop medical identity theft from happening to you.
- Guard your Medicare and Social Security numbers. Treat them in the same way as you treat your credit cards.
Be suspicious of anyone who offers you free medical equipment or services and then requests your Medicare number. Similarly, be suspicious if someone offers you free groceries or transportation in exchange for your number.
If someone calls you claiming to be conducting a survey and asks for your Medicare number, hang up.
Don’t give information to people who claim to be from Medicare or Social Security and ask for payment over the phone or the internet.
Check all of the medical bills, Medicare summary notices, explanation of benefits and credit reports you receive.
When reviewing paperwork, ask the following questions:
Were you charged for any medical services or equipment that you didn’t receive?
Do the dates of services or charges look unfamiliar?
Were you billed for the same thing twice?
Does your credit report show any unpaid bills for medical services or equipment you didn’t receive?
Have you received any collection notices for medical services or equipment you didn’t receive?
If the answer to any of the above is “yes”, contact your healthcare provider. There may just be a mistake on your bill.
If your complaint isn’t resolved by your healthcare provider, contact Medicare.
If you suspect Medicare fraud, contact the Department of Health and Human Services Officer of Inspector General.
If you think someone is misusing your personal information, contact the Federal Trade Commission.
If a family member is receiving medical care and is unable to check his or her own bills, be sure to validate all of the information on them every time a new invoice is received. Don’t let medical identity theft happen to you or someone you love.