Medical records are valued at 20 to 50 times more than financial identities on the black market.

Medical identity theft is on the rise. Medical records are a hot target for hackers because, according to the FBI, medical identities are valued at 20 to 50 times more than financial identities on the black market.

Data breaches appear to be the leading cause of this growth, and the number of data breaches continues to grow. The number of healthcare organizations falling victim to data breaches reached an all-time high of nearly 400 reported breaches in 2016, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center.

“The effects of having one’s medical identity stolen can range widely,” said Paige Schaffer, president and COO, identity and digital protection services global unit, at Generali Global Assistance, one of the first companies to offer identity theft protection and resolution services in the United States. “The most common issue victims experience is being billed by a medical provider for services the fraudster received.”

This is why it’s critical for individuals to check their explanation of benefits statements thoroughly and regularly. If left uncaught, the financial impact can be significant for many families. According to the Medical Identity Fraud Alliance, out-of-pocket cost to victims is $13,500 on average; though, for some medical identity fraud victims expenses can be even more significant as there are currently no legal or regulatory consumer protections in place that limit the financial liabilities for this specific type of fraud.

“Other common outcomes could include being denied health insurance or benefits due to reasons caused by the fraud and discovering another person’s information mixed in with the victim’s own, legitimate records,” Schaffer said. “This last outcome is arguably the most dangerous of potential ones because inaccurate health records, such as allergies, blood type or health conditions can lead to a patient receiving the wrong type of medical care.”

For example, if an individual’s medical record showed a person had a different blood type than they actually did, the results could be deadly.

There are strategic steps that healthcare provider organizations can take today to help thwart the medical identity theft of patients.

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By Bill Siwicki, Healthcare IT News, September 11, 2017