Why would your health insurer refuse to pay the bill for your appendectomy, claiming they’d already paid for one a month before? Why would your doctor prescribe a blood pressure medication though you have no history of hypertension? What if you receive a letter from a bill collector demanding payment for breast implants you’ve never had?
Any of these things can happen to victims of medical identity theft, and in Las Vegas police say it’s happening a lot, according to investigators with the city’s Metro Financial Crimes department. In fact, the valley police say they’re working right now on five recently reported cases of medical identity theft.
“I’ve had doctors call and tell me they don’t know who they operated on,” said Lt. Robert Sebby.
People who lose their jobs often lose their health benefits, but their need for health care doesn’t go away just because they’ve lost their ability to pay for it. And when illness and desperation converge, medical identity theft becomes a painful option.
Drug addicts and dealers find it easier to steal an insurance card than to rob a house and sell a stolen TV. Armed with a stolen insurance card, it’s easy enough to receive prescription drugs for painkillers or anti-anxiety drugs.
So, how can you protect yourself and your family from medical identity theft? Protect your insurance card the same way you do your credit cards:
- Don’t carry insurance cards with you unless you know you’ll need them.
- Check any statement of benefits with the same diligence you review credit card statements.
- Ask your doctor at every visit to review your records for allergies, prescribed medications and recent visits.
- If you find any irregularities in your benefits statements or medical records, contact your insurance company and the police.