The Only Kind of Identity Theft That Could Kill

By John Wagley

When it comes to identity theft, one of the fastest-growing concerns is the improper use of medical information, according to a recent Ponemon Institute study. Costs for victims can be particularly high, and the crime can take especially long to recognize, the study said.

About 1.5 million Americans have suffered from medical identity fraud, according to the study, but it still constitutes a relatively small part of overall ID theft. About 9 percent of Americans have been victimized by ID theft, according to Ponemon; only 6 percent of those cases concerned medical ID fraud.

But medical theft costs are particularly high. The total cost to consumers is about $29 billion, or about $20,000 per person. Effects can also include medical dangers, including misdiagnoses because the medical history now includes items that weren’t really tied to the patient’s own medical services. This can be particularly damaging in emergency situations in which a patient can’t answer questions, says Mike Spinney, a Ponemon senior privacy analyst. Some say “it’s the only kind of ID theft that can kill.”

(To read the rest of "Medical Fraud's Rising Cost" from the July issue of Security Management, click here.)

♦ Photo by termie/Flickr


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