Websites help deal with medical-identity theft

Medical-identity theft — the stealing of Medicare and other information from patients and doctors — is by some measures the fastest-growing form of I.D. theft. These sites help deal with it.

•Privacy advocates say not to carry your Social Security number in your wallet, but Medicare recipients are stuck with insurance I.D. cards that carry their SSNs.

The Medicare bureaucracy is actively resisting change because of the expense of instituting a different identifying system.

So, what to do? This “Ask Ms. Medicare” bulletin at AARP suggests leaving the original card at home, and carrying a photocopy with the last four digits of the SSN cut out.

You’ll still need the original card in many circumstances.

•Medical-I.D. theft is the subject of this page on the site of the Office of Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Among its tips is advice to be suspicious of free offers for medical equipment and services that are followed by a request for your Medicare number. Also, check your medical bills for services you didn’t get.

The page includes phone numbers you’ll need to call to report medical I.D. theft.

•Thousands of physicians feel victimized, too, by medical-I.D. theft, and this article at the American Medical News warns doctors about the risk of thieves getting at their Medicare insurance identifiers and other reimbursement information in addition to vulnerable patient records.

The post quotes a June study that found it costs an average $22,346 per victim to resolve medical-I.D. theft cases.

•The World Privacy Forum says that, despite its enormous risks and growing prevalence, medical I.D. theft is “the least studied and most poorly documented of the cluster of identity theft crimes,” and the hardest to fix.

This page includes links to a detailed FAQ for victims, consumer tips and “best practices” for health care providers to protect information.

Another link shows the forum’s interactive map of the U.S. to display where reported medical-I.D. thefts are taking place.

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