Network Security

Medical identity theft to be explored at FTC hearing

The Federal Trade Commission next week will host a hearing examining identity theft affecting senior citizens, and a portion of the discussion will focus on the the rising rates and awareness of medical identity theft.

According to a Ponemon Institute-ProtectMyID study conducted last June, an average of two million Americans, many of them seniors, fall victim to medical ID theft each year, costing each person about $22,346, up from $20,663 in 2011.

Fraudsters are finding increasing value in targeting and then selling medical information, as opposed to credit card and Social Security numbers, which increasingly have become commoditized.

Harry Rhodes, director of health information management practice excellence at the American Health Information Management Association in Chicago, said a Social Security number is worth about $1 in the black market, as opposed to the $25 to $50 that criminals can fetch for a stolen health insurance ID number.

And health care providers are usually a lot slower in catching on to medical identity theft for a number of reasons, including the fact that multiple people often use insurance cards, and there typically isn't a photo on IDs to verify someone is who they say they are, Rhodes said. 

“If someone gets your credit card number and goes on a spending spree, it won't be long before you get a call,” Rhodes told on Thursday. 

Meanwhile, the rising rates of breaches at health care organizations have exacerbated identity theft concerns, and too often leave valuable medical data vulnerable to theft.

A recent study released by the Ponemon Institute found that 94 percent of health care organizations had at least one data breach in the past two years.

The FTC hearing is scheduled for Tuesday. It "will bring together experts from government, private industry, and public interest groups to discuss the unique challenges facing victims of senior identity theft," according to the agency's website. "The forum will include panels on different types of senior identity theft – tax and government benefits, medical, and long-term care – and will also explore the best consumer education and outreach techniques for reaching seniors."

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