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How to Protect Yourself from Medical Identity Theft

Just about everybody has heard about identity theft, but what about medical identity theft?

In many ways the crimes are similar. With identity theft, someone uses your personal information to commit fraud or other illegal acts. With medical identity theft, someone uses your medical identification numbers to commit health care fraud; they use your medical identity to take money from insurance companies, Medicare or Medicaid that should not be paid to them.

Your medical identity could be your health insurance policy number, your Medicare number or your Medicaid number. When thieves use your medical identity, money that should be used to pay for your care is being stolen. If someone receives health care using your name or insurance information, you may find you can’t get the care you need, and you could face life-threatening inaccuracies in your medical records.

How thieves steal your medical identity

• They steal your purse or wallet where you carry your insurance or Medicare card.

• They lure you to provide your medical identification by making promises of free goods, such as medical equipment, tests, health screening, consultations and gift cards.

• They entice you to share your number by convincing you they're an official with the government or your insurance company.

• They claim to be conducting a health survey and need your I.D. number so you can participate.

• They ask to borrow your card.

• They remove medical documents from the trash.

What you can do to protect your medical identity

• Guard your insurance card as you do your credit cards.

• Carry your insurance card only when you know you'll need it.

• Give your medical identification numbers only to the medical professionals you know.

• Don’t lend your card to anyone.

• Allow your medical records to be reviewed only by your medical professionals.

• Resist sharing your medical identity in exchange for free gifts or services.

• Shred any medical documents you no longer need.

What you can do if you think your medical identity has been stolen

• Contact your insurance company, Medicare or local Medicaid office if your insurance card is missing or stolen.

• If you lose your Medicare card or if it is stolen, call Medicare at 800-MEDICARE (800-633-4227). A Medicare representative will order a replacement card or, if you need proof of eligibility quickly, send you an entitlement letter. Your new card will arrive within four weeks. An entitlement letter can arrive within 10 days.

• Go to the Federal Trade Commission’s identity theft page, or call the FTC's Hotline at 877-ID-THEFT (877-438-4338), TTY: 866-653-4261.

• Visit the Medicare Fraud website or call the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General’s Fraud Hotline to file a report at 800-HHS-TIPS (800-447-8477), TTY: 800-377-4950.