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Study Shows Increase in Medical Identity Theft

An Experian-sponsored study by the Ponemon Institute revealed that nearly 1.5 million Americans are medical identity theft victims.  The average cost of handling a medical identity theft case averaged a little over $20,000.  Despite the increased numbers and cost of medical identity theft cases over last year, consumers are not taking preventive steps to avoid this, but maybe they don’t know how. 

Survey results also include:

  • Consumer expect providers to ensure privacy of their PHI (protected health information) and want control over this information, yet, the study found 49% of medical identity theft victims “took no new steps to protect themselves after a crime.”
  • In addition, half of medical identity theft victims did not report the crime to law enforcement because they weren’t “hurt” and didn’t want to “make it a big deal.”  Other reasons cited for keeping the crimes to themselves were “embarrassment, loss of medical cvoerage, and a diminished credit score.”
  • Data breach notification was responsible for identifying a mere 5% of victims–this doesn’t line up because data breaches comprise a sizeable portion of these reported incidents AND require providers to inform the affected consumers. 
  • Not surprisingly, 55% of the consumers were unaware of new healthcare policies.
  • Most interesting tidbit:  36% of medical identity theft occurred between family members.  No wonder victims felt this identity theft wasn’t a big deal!

Founder of the Ponemon Institute, Larry Ponemon, stated, “Our study shows that the risk and high cost of medical identity theft are not resonating with the public, revealing a serious need for greater educationa and awareness.  We also feel these results put an even greater onus on healthcare organizations to make the security of sensitive personal health informaiton a priority in order to protect patient privacy.”