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It's alarming that healthcare data breaches have accounted for 42.5% of all the breaches that occurred over the past three years. And, even worse, 91% of all healthcare organizations reported at least one breach over the past two years. So the big question is what can we do to prevent ourselves from falling prey to medical identity theft or what we could do to at least limit the amount of damage.
Limit the information
The first thing that you should do is limit the information you give your healthcare provider. The key to identity theft is your Social Security number. All a thief needs is this one bit of information to get your identity information and make your life a living hell. While healthcare providers usually want your Social Security number, there’s no reason for them to get it. Take a line from that old anti-drug commercial and, "just say no." Give healthcare providers your driver’s license number or some other number that` would identify you.
Read your Explanation of Benefits -- very carefully
Another thing you should definitely do to prevent problems is read carefully the Explanation of Benefits that your health insurance company provides you. Unfortunately, these documents are often written in confusing gobbledygook. They’re supposed to detail the use of your health insurance but often don't explain anything very clearly. As a result, many people never take the time to read and understand them. The problem is if you don't read your Explanation of Benefits carefully, you might miss language having to do with your insurance and identify theft.
What else you could do
If you were a customer of Anthem, Chase or some other company that suffered a data breach and believe that someone has misused your financial information, you could place a fraud alert on your credit report. This is free. Once you do this it makes it harder for the thief to open any more accounts in your name. When you have one of these alerts on your report a business must verify your identity before it issues any credit. In fact it might actually contact you. This alert will remain on your report for at least 90 days. You could then renew it.
An ounce of prevention
There are also precautions you can take to prevent identity theft. One of the most important of these is to shred your financial documents or any other documents that include your personal information. You should also monitor your credit reports and bank accounts periodically. If you spot any suspicious activity contact your bank immediately to report it.
Finally, you might consider purchasing one of those identity theft detection products such as Lifelock, PrivacyGuard or IDFreeze. Make sure that it does include identity restoration if you are the victim of identity theft. While these services cannot prevent your personal information from being stolen they will notify you very quickly in the event of identify theft and you should be able to utilize the company’s certified specialists to help restore your identity.