Medical I.D. theft affects millions of Americans
Reporter: Greg Gurule
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - The epidemic of medical I.D. theft affected nearly 1.9 million Americans last year alone, costing consumers and the medical industry $41 million.
It's the fastest growing crime in this country, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center and other agencies that say it's a threat not only to the victim's wallet, but to their health as well.
Medical I.D. information is valuable on the "Black Market" according to experts who say a regular I.D. is worth about $1 to thieves, while a medcial I.D. would be worth $20. Those experts say that is because of the potential to bill tens of thousands of dollars or more in false charges on a medical identification while standard credit is significantly more limited.
Doctors working an emergency situation using your medical records can run into dangerous problems that include incorrect medical information about blood types, allgergies and history of illnesses. That information could potentitally belong to someone else who has used stolen records to get medical care.
Medical I.D. experts say a thief can rack up tens of thousands of dollars in doctor and hospital bills before the victim of the theft even knows he's been targeted. Curing the problem can be hard once it is discovered, the I.D. theft victim has to contact each medical billing source to correct the record.
Federal laws protecting patients can slow that process as hospitals are hesitant to release any patient information even if it involves a question of medical identity theft.
The National Identity Theft Resource Center says another item that makes medical I.D. theft hard to stop is that medical records are de-centralized and there is no overall agency keeping track of them. In commercial credit there are three main agencies that monitor consumers' credit so it is easier to spot and correct problems.
The medical community including doctors, hospitals and insurers are working now on solutions to the problem of medical I.D. theft.