An unguarded credit or debit card is not the only method identity thieves use to steal your personal information and take over your life. A growing number of identity theft cases arise not from retailers but from medical offices. If you are visiting a new medical clinic for the first time, it pays to take a few precautions with your personal information.
Be Careful with Your Social Security Number
Your Social Security number is the key to the kingdom for identity thieves, so you need to exercise caution when giving such personal information to a new medical provider. Many medical forms do indeed have a spot for your SSN, but some identity theft experts recommend providing your phone number instead.
Medical offices typically ask for Social Security numbers so they can track patients down or initiate collections procedures for unpaid bills. Turning over such detailed contact information can give the provider the same protection without putting your identity at risk.
Ensure your Medical Office is using a NAID Shredding Service
NAID AAA Certification Program When it comes to service provider qualifications, choose the certification program with strength and integrity.
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Watch Out for Medical Scams
Patients know that medical care is expensive, and so do identity thieves. That is why some enterprising criminals set up “free” medical clinics and screening programs that are nothing more than attempts to gather personal information.
Identity thieves have been known to provide detailed medical questionnaires — complete with spots for Social Security numbers and dates of birth — at bogus medical clinics and screenings. Would-be patients should be very wary of such clinics and do some research to see who is sponsoring them. If the entity behind the clinic is a respected local hospital, it is probably legitimate. If not, it might be a scam designed to steal your personal information.
Keep Your Medical Paperwork with You
You probably have a secure place to store your tax returns, bank accounts and other sensitive financial documents, but do you have something similar for your medical records? Like tax forms, your medical records often include your Social Security number and date of birth, and that is all identity thieves need to make your life a nightmare.
Leaving medical paperwork lying around is an open invitation to identity thieves, so put it away as quickly as possible. Check your pockets and purse for medical paperwork that could put your identity at risk and put those records away too. You may need to bring an appointment reminder or medication list with you when you visit the doctor, but other medical paperwork should remain in a secure location at your home.
Be Cautious with Phone Calls and Emails
The workers at your doctor’s office may need to follow up with you, but the information they request should be medical in nature. Be wary of any phone calls requesting your Social Security number or other financial information, even if they purport to come from your medical provider.
The same is true of emails. Watch out for phishing scams and bogus emails claiming to come from medical sources. If you correspond with your doctor or nurses by email, you should be providing only basic medical information, not sensitive personal data. Never send your Social Security number or other financial information through email; the medium is not secure enough for such transmission.
Staying safe from identity theft is not easy. Our personal information is everywhere, and keeping track of its movement can be difficult. The best strategy is to limit how much personal information you give out, starting the next time you go to the doctor.
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