NEW YORK --Medical identity theft is a crime on the rise. Nearly 2.5 million cases were reported in 2014, an increase of 20 percent from the year before. A stolen medical identity can ruin your finances, compromise your medical treatment, and cause you legal problems.
If a thief steals your medical identity, he or she can use it to get expensive surgery and medical goods like wheelchairs. Cleaning up the bills can take years and negatively affect your credit score. According to the Medical Identity Fraud Alliance, once your medical record is mixed with a criminal's, you can get the wrong diagnosis or the wrong treatment.
One of the best ways to protect yourself is to ensure you always have copies of your medical records. That way, if a thief gets them you can prove they've been altered.
Also, check your medical records at least once per year to make sure they're accurate. Read each benefit notice from your insurance company and call immediately if you see anything fishy. And if you lose your health insurance card, ask for a new ID number for your new card.
Almost half of medical identity theft occurs when a family member takes a relative's health insurance card or other ID, or when people knowingly share their information with someone else. Allowing a friend or relative to use your medical insurance is considered fraud and is illegal.