Protect Your Identity
You've probably heard about the dangers of identity theft - it can damage your credit, your reputation, and cost you time and money to undo the damage. But did you know it can endanger your health and could even be deadly?
- Why should I be concerned about identity theft?
- How can identity theft affect my health?
- What can I do to protect my identity?
- What should I do if I'm a victim of identity theft?
- Additional resources
Why should I be concerned about identity theft?
Identity theft not only causes frustration, anger and stress, it can rob you of your good name and destroy your credit. Victims spend a lot of time and money trying to straighten out issues related to identity theft. It can take months or years to undo the damage.
Here are ways that thieves use the information they steal from you:
- They use your credit card number to make purchases on your account.
- They open new credit card accounts in your name and run up charges. When the bills aren't paid, it shows up on your credit report.
- They get loans for houses or cars in your name.
- They get identification, such as a driver's license, with your name and their picture.
- They drain your bank account by authorizing electronic transfers or writing counterfeit checks.
- They open bank accounts in your name and write bad checks.
- They file fraudulent tax returns in your name.
- They commit crimes with your name, resulting in warrants for your arrest.
How can identity theft affect my health?
If someone steals your identity and uses it to receive healthcare services, your medical history could be compromised and result in:
- Receiving the wrong blood type if you ever need a transfusion;
- Getting a medication you're allergic to;
- Being refused medication or therapy because your medical history shows you have an allergy to it;
- Difficulty getting life or health insurance; and
- Endangering your employment if substance abuse is listed.
What can I do to protect my identity?
Protecting your identity is important for numerous reasons, one of which is safeguarding your health. Nothing is foolproof against the best identity thieves, but by taking a few precautions, you can decrease your chance of becoming a victim.
- Protect your Social Security number. Don't have it printed on your driver's license, checks or other materials, and don't carry your Social Security card in your wallet. Give out your Social Security number only when it's absolutely necessary.
- Safeguard your insurance ID card.
- Review your Explanation of Benefits (EOB) or Processed Claim Reports to ensure they are accurate.
- Shred paperwork that contains personal or financial information before discarding it. This includes preapproved credit card and loan applications, and materials that include your personal health information.
- Avoid giving out personal information to unknown businesses or people over the phone, through the mail or on the Internet.
- When entering personal or financial information on the Internet, be sure the web site you are using is secure. Look for the lock icon on your browser or https in the web address. This means the site is encrypted and has a security certificate. Also, be sure to install antivirus and firewall software on your computer.
- Don't click on links in unsolicited emails.
- Destroy expired credit and ATM cards.
- Order an annual copy of your credit report and review it for discrepancies.
- Review bills, bank statements and other financial accounts for suspicious activity.
What should I do if I'm a victim of identity theft?
If you suspect that your information has been stolen, follow these steps immediately:
- Place a "Fraud Alert" on your credit reports and review them carefully. This will make it harder for thieves to open accounts in your name or alter existing accounts. Call any of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies to put a fraud alert on your credit report:
- Equifax: 1 800 525-6285
- Experian: 1 888 EXPERIAN (397-3742)
- TransUnion: 1 800 680-7289
- Close any accounts that you suspect have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Speak with someone in the security or fraud department. Follow up in writing, including copies of supporting documents. Keep the original supporting documents with copies of your letters in your files.
- File a police report. This will come in handy if creditors require proof of the crime.
- Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). This helps law enforcement officials investigate identify theft and increases the chance of stopping the perpetrators. To file a report with the FTC:
- Visit www.ftc.gov/idtheft.
- Call 1 877 ID-THEFT (438-4338).
- Send a letter to:
Identity Theft Clearinghouse
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580
For medical identity theft:
- Contact your healthcare provider and request the correction of false claim and medical history.
- Notify your health insurance company of the incident.
- In addition to filing a police report and reporting the incident to the FTC, report it to the Social Security Administration and Medical Information Bureau.
If you notice anything suspicious on your claim reports or suspect fraudulent activity, report it to Fraud and Abuse online or by calling the Fraud and Abuse Hotline at 800 824-4391.
- Federal Trade Commission: www.ftc.gov/idtheft
- World Privacy Forum: www.worldprivacyforum.org
- United States Postal Inspection Service: postalinspectors.uspis.gov
- Identity Theft Resource Center: www.idtheftcenter.org
- Privacy Rights Clearinghouse: www.privacyrights.org
- Social Security Administration: www.ssa.gov
- Medical Information Bureau: www.mib.com