Medical identity theft on the rise


Medical identity theft is a national healthcare issue with life-threatening and hefty financial consequences – and according to a new survey, it is on the rise.

The 2013 Survey on Medical Identity Theft conducted by Ponemon Institute found that the number of victims affected by medical identity theft went up by nearly 20 percent within the last year. The survey, sponsored by the Medical Identity Fraud Alliance (MIFA) with support from ID Experts, finds that medical identity theft affects an estimated 1.84 million people in the US, with victims forking out more than $12 billion in out-of-pocket costs incurred by medical identity theft.

For the purposes of this study, medical identity theft occurs when someone uses an individual’s name and personal identity to fraudulently receive medical services, goods, and/or prescription drugs, including attempts to commit fraudulent billing.

Half of the consumers surveyed were not aware that medical identity theft can create life-threatening inaccuracies in their medical records, resulting in a misdiagnosis, mistreatment, or the wrong prescriptions. Yet, 50 percent of consumers surveyed do not take steps to protect themselves, mostly because they don’t know how.

The survey also finds that consumers often put themselves at risk by sharing their medical identification with family members or friends—unintentionally committing “family fraud”—to obtain medical services or treatment, healthcare products, or pharmaceuticals.

“Medical identity theft is tainting the healthcare ecosystem, much like poisoning the town’s water supply. Everyone will be affected,” said Dr Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute. “The survey finds that consumers are completely unaware of the seriousness and dangers of medical identity theft.”

The medical identity theft problem is getting bigger and more complex with the Affordable Care Act and the increased use of electronic health records (EHRs). Healthcare organizations cannot solve the medical identity theft problem alone.

The Medical Identity Fraud Alliance (MIFA) is the first cooperative public-private sector effort to unite all stakeholders involved in the protection of consumers—policy decision-makers, organizations that hold protected health information (PHI), health plans, law enforcement, regulatory agencies, companies, non-profit organizations, and consumer advocates—to jointly develop best practices, solutions, and technologies for the prevention, detection and remediation of medical identity theft and fraud.

“With the formation of the Medical Identity Fraud Alliance, we have an opportunity to bring a serious societal problem to the forefront and protect the public,” said Robin Slade, development coordinator for the Medical Identity Fraud Alliance. “MIFA will act as the intersection between industry, government, and consumers. We are working together to vaccinate against medical identity theft and fraud.”


Medical identity theft, Ponemon Institute, ID Experts, medical identity fraud