It’s an ordinary day, you’re opening mail, and you find a hospital bill for a visit to the emergency room. Problem is, you never received care there… in fact, you’ve never visited that state.

Medical identity theft is the fraudulent use of your personally identifiable information (PII) such as your insurance number or Social Security number to receive medical services, prescriptions or equipment. It is far more costly than credit card theft, takes more time to resolve and has potentially life altering consequences.

Here are a few examples of medical identity theft and how it can impact your own care:

  • Blood type

    - A thief who uses your good name to get medical care may have a different blood type. In the event you are in need of urgent care and cannot communicate, the medical team may only have medical records to rely on to provide your care. If part of that care involves receiving blood, you could be given the wrong type.

  • Medical records

    - From medical procedures and diagnoses to blood tests and allergies, having incorrect medical records could delay any care you require due to prior treatments given to a thief under your name.

  • Credit report

    - If a thief uses your PII for medical care, you could get pinged for any applicable co-pays and deductibles on your plan. If those bills are not promptly paid, they could get sent to collections, thus impacting your credit report.

To protect yourself from medical identity theft, be sure to carefully review any Explanation of Benefits documents you receive from your insurance provider. If you suspect you are the victim of medical identity theft, contact your insurance provider right away. The Federal Trade Commission provides a great, comprehensive checklist to help walk you through the process of resolving medical identity theft.