Medical identity theft: Here’s how to protect yourself

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Most people know to be on the lookout for identity theft, which can result in thieves charging purchases to stolen debit or credit card numbers, compromising bank accounts and taking out unauthorized loans under your name.

But did you know that your name and health insurance information can also be a hot commodity for medical identity thieves?

When someone steals your medical identity, that person can use the information to visit a doctor, obtain prescriptions and file insurance claims under your name. His or her medical history and claims then mix with yours, potentially exhausting insurance coverage and benefits so you can’t receive treatment or care when you need it.

However, you can take precautions to prevent medical identity theft. Click or swipe for 6 ways to protect your medical and health insurance information.

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1. Open all medical correspondence

Medical identity theft: Here's how to protect yourself

Don’t automatically delete an email or toss a letter from your health insurance company or doctor’s office because you assume it’s a reminder of privacy policies or a nudge to sign up for the practice’s online portal.

When you don’t open all medical or insurance correspondence, you could unwittingly discard a statement for services you didn’t receive or an unfamiliar insurance claim, which would both be signs of possible medical identity theft.

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2. Use strong passwords

Medical identity theft: Here's how to protect yourself

Just like with credit card and bank account identity theft, a strong account password is key to keeping identity thieves out of medical and insurance records. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) cautions against using your birthday, phone number or social security number in your password.

The FTC also recommends creating a password that is long, complex and unique and changing to a new password as soon as you suspect an identity breach.

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3. Review insurance claims carefully

Medical identity theft: Here's how to protect yourself

Make sure you examine all Explanation of Benefits (EOB) or Medicare Summary Notices mailed by your health plan for signs of possible medical identity theft.

Red flags include a misspelled or wrong name, unfamiliar physician, charges for services you didn’t receive, an insurance denial based on incorrect medical history or a notice from your insurance company that you’ve exhausted your benefits.

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4. Pay attention to medical collection notices

Medical identity theft: Here's how to protect yourself

If you get a collection notice for medical services you never received from a hospital or other health care provider, someone may have used your insurance information to receive treatment or a procedure. Immediately contact the creditor for more information or to dispute the bill.

Another place that past-due payments and collections from health care providers shows up is on your credit report. Review your credit report regularly, keeping an eye out for payment history notices for unfamiliar health care providers.

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5. Beware of phone scammers

Medical identity theft: Here's how to protect yourself

Did you know that “caller ID spoof” technology can make the caller look official by changing caller ID to your doctor’s office, pharmacy, or health insurance company? When that happens, a scammer can fool you into providing private medical, insurance, or financial information.

If a caller claims to work for a health care provider or insurance company, don’t simply provide the requested information in good faith. Instead, verify the caller’s identity by calling the provider’s mainline before answering questions pertaining to sensitive information.

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6. Use caution providing information on websites

Medical identity theft: Here's how to protect yourself

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends asking why your social security number, health insurance ID, or other details about your health are needed before providing sensitive information on a website.

You may be able to find that information on the website’s privacy policy, which should be somewhere on the site. Before providing sensitive information, always make sure the site’s URL begins with “https,” which signifies the information you input is secure.

This article originally appeared on Debt.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

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