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Six tips for protecting yourself against medical identity theft

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Medical identity theft happens when someone steals your personal or health insurance information. They use it to get medical care, prescriptions, insurance payouts, even surgery. It’s a lot like regular identify theft. It can damage your credit rating, cost you money and take time to clear up. Being a victim can even hurt your chances to get some jobs. And it’s happening more and more in the United States.

Here are six ways to protect yourself:

  1. Be careful with your member ID card.
    It could be used to get medical services or drugs. And these will be on your medical record permanently. If your card is missing, lost or stolen, notify your insurance plan’s Member Services right away.
  2. Keep personal information personal.
    Don’t give out your insurance ID, Social Security or driver’s license numbers on the phone or by mail to just anyone. Make sure you initiated the contact. And make sure there is a valid reason for giving out the number.
  3. Be on guard even if someone claims to be from your health plan.
    For example, Aetna avoids asking for Social Security numbers. However, there are times we need it. For example, if you:

    • Sent us a form that requested your Social Security number but you didn’t provide it or it is not readable, we might call you to ask for it.
    • Left a voice mail for someone at Aetna that did not include enough information to identify you, we might ask for additional information when returning your call.
  4. If you are uneasy giving information to someone who says they are from your health plan – DON’T. Instead, call the Member Services number on your ID card. Ask to have your call directed to the department asking for the information. That way, you can be sure you know who you are giving the information to.
  5. Make sure “free” is free.
    If you visit a free clinic, make sure it’s free. Don’t show your ID card for any reason.
  6. Review health care information.
    Take time to read mailed Explanation of Benefits (EOB) statements or online claims. Even if they are marked, “This is not a bill.”  Look for:
    • Wrong group or identification numbers
    • Unfamiliar provider offices or hospitals
    • Dates for services on which you did not receive care
    • Prescriptions you did not fill

One final tip: Check your credit report often.
Identity thieves can run up medical costs in your name. The bills can be mailed to another address. You won’t know unless you check your report. Or you get a call from a collection agency. You can get a credit report for free. Visit the Federal Trade Commission website to learn how.

This article was originally published on September 5, 2014.