Medical Identity Theft
About medical identity theft, the World Privacy Forum medical identity theft report, and our key resources
The World Privacy Forum is the leading expert on medical ID theft. We published the first major report about medical identity theft in 2006 and brought this crime to the attention of the public for the first time. We maintain up-to-date information and tips for victims, as well as conduct and publish new research.
What is medical identity theft?
Medical identity theft occurs when someone uses a person’s name and sometimes other parts of their identity — such as insurance information — without the person’s knowledge or consent to obtain medical services or goods, or uses the person’s identity information to make false claims for medical services or goods. Medical identity theft frequently results in erroneous entries being put into existing medical records, and can involve the creation of fictitious medical records in the victim’s name.
Medical identity theft is a crime that can cause great harm to its victims. Yet despite the profound risk it carries, it is the least studied and most poorly documented of the cluster of identity theft crimes. It is also the most difficult to fix after the fact, because victims have limited rights and recourses. Medical identity theft typically leaves a trail of falsified information in medical records that can plague victims’ medical and financial lives for years.
Key World Privacy Forum Medical ID Theft Resources:
See the blog roll below for news and new content by date.
The National Health Information Network (NHIN) is an ambitious modernization plan proposed by the U.S. government. The idea is to move as an entire nation from paper medical files to electronic medical files that are shared. Specifically, the government goal is to digitize patients’ health records and medical files and create a national network to place the information in. The network, called the NHIN, would be a sophisticated network that hospitals, insurers, doctors, and others could potentially access. Such a network brings patient privacy, security, and confidentiality issues into sharp relief.
Medical privacy | HIPAA | FTC — According to a legal complaint, CVS pharmacies — the largest pharmacy chain in the United States — did not take appropriate steps to protect its customers’ and employees’ sensitive information when it improperly disposed of documents, labels, prescription bottles, and other items with clearly identifiable and highly sensitive personal information such as SSNs, prescription information, driver’s license numbers, and other information still on those materials. CVS agreed to pay $2.25 million to settle its violations of HIPAA as part of a Resolution Agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services. CVS has also signed a consent agreement with the FTC; the public can comment on this agreement until March 20, 2009. The World Privacy Forum will be filing comments with the FTC on the consent agreement with CVS, which we will post here.
SAN DIEGO, Ca., Sept. 24 — The World Privacy Forum’s latest report, Red Flag and Address Discrepancy Requirements: Suggestions for Health Care Providers, discusses the applicability of the new FTC regulations to the health care sector along with suggestions for providers. The report addresses newly issued regulations by the Federal Trade Commission that require financial institutions and creditors to develop and implement written identity theft prevention programs. Health care providers – whether they are for-profit, non-profit, or governmental entities – may have obligations under the new rules.
Consumer Excellence Award — World Privacy Forum executive director Pam Dixon has received a 2008 Consumer Excellence Award for her leadership and work in the area of medical identity theft and consumer privacy from Consumer Action. Also honored was Herb Weisbaum, a 5-time Emmy-winner who is a consumer contributor to NBC’s Today Show. Consumer Action was founded in 1971 and is a national non-profit organization focused on consumer education and advocacy. The awards ceremony was held in San Francisco on June 26th. The World Privacy Forum is honored to accept this award.
Medical ID theft — Based on interviews with numerous victims and others involved in the crime of medical identity theft, and based on our own work with victims, the World Privacy Forum has added some new information to its 2006 consumer tips for medical identity theft. We have also slightly updated some of the older tips based on new information. The Forum has also updated its medical identity theft landing page to reflect our new and ongoing work in this area.