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Fraud & Identity Theft

Medical Identity Fraud in U.S. Tied Largely to Theft by Friends, Relatives

Over-sharing can make for some awkward social moments. It can also become the catalyst for medical identity theft.

Over-sharing can make for some awkward social moments. It can also become the catalyst for medical identity theft.

According to a new survey by the Ponemon Institute, the Medical Identity Fraud Alliance (MIFA) and ID Experts, medical identity theft impacts an estimated 1.84 million people in the U.S. – and friends and family members stealing and misusing victims’ data seems to be at the center of it.

“According to the findings of this research, the theft is occurring because a large percentage of ‘supposed’ victims are sharing their personal or medical credentials with friends or family who then use them to obtain medical services or treatments,” said Larry Ponemon, founder of the institute. “Or, family members are taking and using the victims’ credentials without consent. We also found that there is a disproportionate amount of sharing among individuals who are low-income and participants in government health care plans.”

“It is interesting to note that medical identity theft differs from other forms of identity crimes that can be traced to hackers, criminals and data breaches,” he continued. “According to the consumers participating in the study only 20 percent say they had their medical identity stolen for the following reasons: a malicious insider stole their health information (5 percent), a data breach (7 percent) a phishing attack occurred (8 percent). The majority of respondents say they shared their credentials with someone they know (30 percent of respondents) or a member of the family took their personal identification or medical credentials without their consent (28 percent of respondents).”

This year’s estimate of victims is an increase compared to 2012, when 1.52 million individuals in the U.S. were believed to be impacted. Of the 788 individuals surveyed in the study, 64 percent said they did not incur any out-of-pocket costs as a result of the crime. However, 36 percent did – and they paid an average of $18,660.  

Despite the cost, 50 percent of those surveyed do not take steps to protect themselves, mostly because they don’t know how.  Those who tried to resolve the identity theft issue said they worked with their health plan and or insurer (35 percent) or worked with their healthcare provider (31 percent). This however took almost a year or more for 36 percent of respondents and nearly half (48 percent) said the crime was still unresolved.

“The Healthcare Industry is under a barrage of changes today – legislative and regulatory changes, technological changes and challenges, and soon we will have an influx of new consumers into the healthcare marketplace,” said Robin Slade, development coordinator for Medical Identity Fraud Alliance.

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“To protect their customers, patients, and their companies data, organizations, especially those that hold PHI, need to take a comprehensive and holistic approach to risk management, which includes developing better processes, best practices and best-in-class technologies for data storage, protection and access,” Slade added. 

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