You’ve just received a bill for a medical service you did not receive. Coincidence or con?

With money tight and scam artists getting even more creative, you may be the victim of medical identity theft.

Here’s the lowdown. Health insurance information can be used by criminals to receive hospital treatment, acquire prescription drugs, get a reduced doctor visit rate or collect money from false insurance claims.

Unfortunately, medical identity theft is hard to uncover. Some people find out about it through debt collectors, while others are clued in when insurance investigators warn them of the problem. Victims can also be tipped off by receiving a strange bill for services or catching an error in their medical file.

But no matter how it is caught, medical identity theft can transform your medical record—so much so it’s almost impossible to reverse. Sometimes the changes to your record can even present a medical risk to you.

You must repair your medical records if you have been a victim of medical ID theft so that you don’t receive unnecessary treatment that may jeopardize your health. You should also take preventative steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

1. Demand a list of benefits. It is essential that you ask for a listing of benefits from your health insurers once a year. By being proactive, you thwart fraudsters who’ve changed your billing address. Question the insurer or provider if strange payments appear.

2. Request current medical files. A copy should be obtained from each health care provider. Sometimes a fee may be charged, so you may want to ask for only the records that will offer the information you need.

3. Protect your health insurance card. Treat it the same way as you would a credit card.

4. Fix any incorrect information. Review statements from doctors, hospitals and insurance companies. Upon noticing flawed information in your medical or insurance record, insist it be completely removed. Make sure the false information is deleted from your doctor, hospital, insurance and laboratory and pharmacy records.

Because medical identity theft is harder to uncover, it is important to be proactive. Make it a point to review bills and statements on a regular basis.  Be sure to report incorrect information that appears in your medical records right away.

If you think you are a victim of medical fraud call 800-HHS-TIPS (800-447-8477) or file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

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