May 072012

Are your elderly parents and their medical identity safe?

When I first heard of medical identity theft, I was confused. Why would anyone want to steal someone’s medical identity? The answer is for drugs, surgery, medical treatments and in some cases false billing. Like traditional identity theft, someone stealing your medical identity can affect your finances but it can also affect your health.

If someone is using your parent’s identity to get prescription medications, especially those that are labeled controlled substances, it could trigger an investigation of your parents. They could be denied health coverage for a condition they don’t have or try to make a legitimate claim only to be told they have reached their maximum coverage. They could be billed for services they did not receive.

With the age of computerized everything, information about the thief would be entered in they name, such as blood type, allergies, etc. and they could end up receiving improper treatment that could lead to injury, illness or worse.

Steps To Prevent Medical Identity Theft

  • Educate your parents to protect their Social Security Number, Medicare Number and Insurance information.
  • Beware of free offers for medical tests, equipment or services that then ask for Medicare or insurance information.
  • Never let anyone use their medical ID or information. Not only is it illegal it can be dangerous.
  • If their Medicare card is lost or stolen report it right away. Call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) for a replacement.

Signs of Medical Identity Theft

When reviewing your parent’s claims information:

  • Are there medical services listed that they did not receive,
  • Charges for doctor’s they have never seen?
  • Are the dates listed for office visits correct?
  • Charges for medical equipment they do not have or use?
  • Were they billed for the same thing twice?

Review credit reports for any unpaid medical services or equipment that they never received.

Have your parents received notices from debt collector’s about medical debt they do not owe?

Have your parents tried to make a legitimate insurance claim and been told they have reached their limit?

Have your parents receive notice that coverage has been denied due to an illness they do not have?

Protect Them

Educate your parents about medical identity theft and what they can do to protect themselves.

Do not give out your parent’s personal or medical information over the phone or through the mail unless you initiated contact.

Beware offers of free medical services or products if they ask for health plan information. If the service or product is free, they do not need that information. Medical identity thieves may pose as employees of insurance companies, doctors’ offices, clinics, pharmacies, and even government agencies to get people to reveal their personal information.

As a caregiver of an older person, you should realize they are often targeted. Be sure to inform them of the danger of giving out personal health information. Read any bills carefully, look for the date of service and the name of the provider. If there is a discrepancy contact the health plan to report it immediately.

Also monitor you and your parent’s credit reports for any discrepancies. Keep a record of any hospitalizations, doctor appointments, treatments, medical supplies and medications. Your parent’s or you if you have their permission or guardianship, can also request copies of medical records.

If you believe your parent(s) have been a victim of medical identity theft:
1. Contact their healthcare provider. It could be a simple mistake.
2. If this does not solve the problem, report questionable charges to Medicare and any other insurance providers they may have.
3. If you suspect Medicare fraud contact the Department of Health & Human Services Office of Inspector General.
4. File a complaint with the FTC Federal Trade Commission, their local police, their health insurance/plan provider, as well as the three major credit reporting companies.
5. If coverage has been denied based on false claims or misinformation, file an appeal.
6. Hire an attorney. If your parent has had their medical identity stolen, the correction process is going to be difficult and time-consuming. A good attorney can make the process easier, less painful, less stressful and in the end, less expensive. Let them do what they do best.

You can find more information and helpful links at:

FTC Medical ID Theft

OIG Medical ID Theft

Get a free credit report each year by calling 1-877-322-8228

If you need help reading your Medicare Summary Notice: Medicare Summary Notice

An interesting article from the Journal of the American Medical Association, JAMA: Medical Identity Theft A Growing Problem


  15 Responses to “Elderly Parents Alert: Medical Identity Theft”

  1. Hi Nurse Suzanne,
    Simpy Amazing Info! So Important for every Caregiver!
    Looking forward to tomorrow!
    When does the caregiver get care?

  2. My goodness, that would be ghastly! Thanks for the advice to help to avoid medical identity theft.

    EcoFriendlyMatters @ EcoFriendlyLink
    Donald Saves Scotland!

  3. Hi Nurse Suzanne,

    What a wonderful and important warning to bring to the attention of adult children caregivers when tending to their parent’s lives to become aware of the possibility of Medical Identity Theft and the steps to ward this off safely.

    Happy Dating and Relationships,

    April Braswell
    After 40 Dating Help Divorced Single Moms, Keeping Your Married Name?

  4. Valuable information … health care providers are not mistake-proof.

    Lyle R. Johnson

    Close Sales using Basics

  5. Suzanne, great point!
    Elderly are very exposed to identity theft and other attacks. My mother in law was called on the phone and asked for money, because her son (my husband) was in trouble. She new better. Elderly need to be educated. Good suggestion.

    The meaning Of Body Language: How Others Think Of You

  6. I have a friend have her medical information stolen. The person was using her ID to get pain medication. I guess this happens more than we realize. Don’t just pay the bills without looking at the explanation of benefits.

    Yours In Health!

    Dr. Wendy

  7. From now I am very curious about my Medical Identity Theft
    Great post
    Octavio Urzua

  8. Hi Suzanne,
    I never heard of that before!
    Unbelivable that some people would do that!

    Hiposis y autohipnosis

  9. I never considered the drug purchasing aspect of Medical Identity Theft.

    Lyle R. Johnson

    Sales Compliance from Simple Request

  10. Timely advice. My mother has almost been taken in a couple of times.
    Be Well.

  11. When I first heard about medical identy theft, I too asked WHY? But then I started reading cases of people who were in accidents and were given improper treatment because their medical identity had been switched with some one elses. Very Important to check that your own medical records are accurate and that they are YOURS>
    Sonya Lenzo

  12. Suzzanne, I though my idenity was stolen a few weeks ago and I was sweating, I could not imagine what would have happened if it were my parents.
    Scott Sylvan Bell
    Mirroring Body language
    Now go implement!

  13. WOW! It would seem there needs to be some sort of understanding about this issue when Identity theft in general is so wide spread.

    I suppose all the companies will pop up to make a load of cash off this.

    Music Career Disasters

  14. I can see this being an issue with all of the issues people have with paying for medical services.

    Sales Expert

  15. so sad that we even have to think about stuff like this!

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