The ITRC has recently put together a survey on www.idtheftcenter.org attempting to find out what consumers know about medical identity theft.
According to several recent studies, medical identity theft is among the fastest growing types of identity fraud in the United States. Medical identity theft is the fraudulent use of an individual’s protected health information (PHI) or personally identifiable information (PII), such as name and Social Security number, to obtain medical goods and services or to unlawfully gain financial benefit.
According to a recent Ponemon Institute Research Report, 1.85 million Americans were affected by medical identity theft in 2012. This is a dramatic increase from the 1.49 million affected by medical identity theft in 2011, amounting to an almost 25% increase in just one year.
This rate of growth has the potential to explode due to several reasons.
First, The Affordable Care Act is estimated to reduce the number of uninsured by approximately 30 million, drastically increasing the number of insurers and insured patients who are targets for medical identity theft.
Second, HIPAA policies and new rules under HITECH are increasing the use of electronic health records (EHRs) which can be vulnerable to data hackers.
Third, and finally, the data hackers themselves are more sophisticated and cognizant of ways to profit off of personal data than ever before.
All these factors combined pose a very serious dilemma in controlling the rate of growth for medical identity theft. Ponemon estimates that the cost of medical identity theft to the economy in 2012 was approximately $41 billion.
How the Scams Operate
There are a variety of ways to perpetrate a medical identity theft scam, but the most common are those where the thief uses someone else’s information to make use of their insurance for a procedure or treatment they don’t want to pay for or can’t afford.
Other times a thief may use someone’s medical information to acquire access to prescription medications they wouldn’t otherwise be able to attain. This form of identity theft can be an especially scary one because usually medical bills will tend to be larger than your average fraudulent credit card bill.
With this in mind, the ITRC has created a survey in an attempt to gauge the public awareness of medical identity theft.
The survey is comprised of only six questions, all of which are broad and non-specific, attempting to gain a better general understanding of the degree of awareness the consumer population has of medical identity theft, and if that awareness is also coupled with a general knowledge or understanding of what it involves and how to take basic steps to protect oneself. The survey makes no attempt to actually test consumer knowledge through specific content related questions. Instead the survey seeks only to ascertain what their confidence is that they know what steps to take to mitigate risk, and upon finding out they’ve become a victim, how confident they are that they could effectively mitigate their issue and get any resulting financial damage cleaned up.
If you’re interested in taking this survey, simply visit the ITRC homepage (link above) and click on the medical identity theft survey in the middle of the home page.