BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Medical identity theft is a growing problem and it's something that could cause more damage than simple credit card theft.
"The thing that criminals are starting to see now is this health insurance card and the identities of those people are worth money to them and that's a lucrative process and we're starting to see it grow," explained Darrell Langlois, vice president of compliance, privacy, and fraud for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana.
According to a report from the Ponemon Institute, an independent research group, more than 1.8 million people were victims of medical ID theft in 2013. That same report shows that victims paid around $18,000 in various fees and payments to get their records corrected. However, the danger of medical ID theft goes much deeper than your pocket book, possibly leaving your medical records inaccurate.
"Sometimes you may be treated when you're not conscious and your family members may not be around and there is nothing more to go on than your medical records. If that medical record, much like your credit report is not accurate, wrong decisions can be made," said Langlois.
Detecting medical ID theft can be challenging. Langlois says that BCBSLA has several controls in place to look for abnormal claims, as well as a 24-hour hotline for customers. He also explains that while insurance cards are not utilized over the internet as much as other personal information, the risk for someone accessing that information improperly increases as medical information becomes more digitized.
However, there are steps to protect yourself.
Guard your information like you would a credit or debit card and keep any insurance cards in a safe place.
Never let friends or family use your insurance card to get care. Not only is it illegal, it could also lead to dangerous medical mix ups.
Take time to double check your medical details with your doctor. If information in your medical record is incorrect, that could be a sign of fraud.
Most insurance companies provide a statement anytime a claim is made. It is important to review these to look for anything unusual.
"Look at the date of service and look at the provider's name. If that doesn't look like someone you have seen or associated with your care, then ask the question," said Langlois.
If you feel that you have been a victim of medical ID theft, Langlois says it is important to first gather any and all facts. Then, contact your healthcare provider and your insurance provider to alert them of the problem.
If you wish to take legal action, you can contact the Attorney General's Office, Louisiana State Police or the Louisiana Department of Insurance.