Medical records are a prime target for cybercriminals, and data breaches are a frequent occurrence in the health care industry. These records are valuable because they may contain a large variety of personal information, including your name, address, insurance information, Social Security number (SSN) and medical history.
Medical records can be used to commit many types of identity theft, from opening fraudulent accounts to receiving medical treatment or prescription drugs in your name. While there’s no foolproof way to protect your medical records from data breaches, there are some things you can do to help protect your health records and your identity.
Here’s how to help protect your medical information from cybercriminals.
1. Don’t Overshare Information with Medical Providers
If you have ever filled out a medical form at a doctor’s office, you know that they ask for an extensive amount of data, including your medical history, preexisting conditions and identifying information such as your name, address and SSN.
While it’s important to give your medical providers a comprehensive view of your health, you should try not to overshare; the goal should be to minimize the amount of records containing sensitive information that can be used to commit identity theft.
Many standard forms ask for your SSN, address and insurance information; chances are, some medical providers don’t need this information, or they already have it from a previous visit. Ask the medical office if you need to provide personal information on a medical form before you fill it out.
2. Don’t Answer Unsolicited Requests
If you get an unsolicited email or phone call from someone who claims to be with your insurance company or medical provider, don’t immediately respond with personal information. The person on the other end of the communication may not be who they say they are. If you need to speak with your insurance company or medical provider, call them directly or log in to your medical portal yourself.
Don’t click any links or download any attachments in emails you weren’t expecting.
3. Review All Medical Documents
Carefully review your medical bills and the Explanation of Benefits provided by your insurance company. This can help you avoid getting charged for services that someone else received, and it can also help you identify services your insurance company should have covered.
Make sure to review everything mailed to you from your medical providers and insurance company for signs of suspicious activity.
4. Report Signs of Identity Theft
You should report any signs of identity theft to the appropriate parties – if the identity theft is medical in nature, you should report it to your insurance provider. You also may need to file a police report, notify the credit bureaus and monitor your credit report to look for fraudulent information.
Some red flags for identity theft include:
- Getting bills for medical services or other services you never received.
- Receiving calls from debt collectors for debts you don’t recognize.
- Receiving notices from your insurance provider that you’ve reached your benefit limits.
- Seeing accounts and activity you don’t recognize on your credit report.
Medical records contain your health information and personal information that can be used to commit identity theft. Make sure you’re taking proactive steps to protect your information and watching for signs that you’ve become a victim.