News Feature | March 6, 2015

Medical Identity Theft Up 20%

Katie Wike

By Katie Wike, contributing writer

Healthcare Hackers Coming

A report released by the Medical Identity Theft Alliance reveals the frequency of medical identity theft rose 20 percent between fiscal year 2014 and the previous year.

Stealing medical data is more lucrative than stealing credit information, and a 20 percent increase in medical identity theft from 2013 to 2014 just proves the point. The Ponemon Institute’s Fifth Annual Study on Medical Identity Theft found during fiscal year 2014 there were nearly 500,000 consumers affected by medical identity theft.

“Medical identity theft isn’t just a financial threat ‒ it’s also clinical ‒ and it has a much longer timeline than other forms of identity theft,” said Ann Patterson, Senior Vice President and Program Director of the Medical Identity Fraud Alliance which sponsored the report, according to Forbes.

Fierce Health IT reports that, although 79 percent of respondents said it is important for healthcare providers to ensure the privacy of their health records, 68 percent said they are not confident in their healthcare providers' security measures. Forty-five percent said they would change providers if their information was lost or stolen, but 52 percent were unsure what their actions would be.

Of those who had experienced their records being compromised, said their benefits were used by the hacker and thus a valid insurance claim was denied.

“Consumers have reached a kind of numbness to all the mega-breach announcements – which now includes healthcare. Almost 70 percent of people surveyed had no confidence in their providers ability to keep their medical records secure – and this was before the Anthem breach was announced,” explains Michael Bruemmer, VP, Consumer Protection at Experian, a co-sponsor of the report and member of the MIFA.

According to the report, the long term effects of medial identity theft are unknown, and the potential victims often include children. “Unfortunately, it’s the kids that can be the most affected by medical identity theft. They often don’t find out about it until they get out on their own and begin to apply for health insurance or as they get older, life insurance. The premiums they encounter as result of an earlier medical identity fraud can be among the highest available and often take years to straighten out,” said Robert Siciliano, online safety expert for Intel Security.