Medical Identity Theft – A New Source for Fraudsters

October 27, 2016 : Allie Freeland

Fraud is a growing concern for Americans. In fact, according to a 2016 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the IRS issued about $3.1 billion in fraudulent tax refunds in 2014. And criminals claiming fraudulent tax returns are growing by the year.

The good news is that you can help protect yourself by practicing a few simple strategies to keep personal information private and secure.

What is Medical Identity Theft?

Our personal information is everywhere – each time you use it you are leaving breadcrumbs for fraudsters. And the new way these individuals source your personal data is through healthcare records or accounts. These criminals steal personal information – like your name, address, Social Security number, and Medicare number – to use for their own benefit.

How Do Fraudsters Get Your Information?

In addition to common tax identity theft sources, your personal information could be stolen from medical records, filings, documents, or third-party healthcare sources. Any place online or in-person you would give this information could be a potential source for stealing your identity.

Can Medical Identity Theft Impact Your Tax Situation?

Fraudsters steal your personal information to:

  • Obtain medical care
  • Purchase prescription drugs
  • Submit fake billings to Medicare in your name
  • Qualify for better health insurance through the Healthcare Marketplace

Medical identity theft also has tax implications. Criminals can use your personal information to fraudulently file a tax return to attempt to obtain your tax refund from the IRS. All a criminal typically needs to file a fraudulent tax return is a person’s name, date of birth, Social Security number and a means to file an electronic tax return.

While you will eventually receive the refund you are entitled to from the IRS, criminal activity could delay your return. Not to mention increase the time involved in resolving the issue with government agencies and the IRS.

What Can You Proactively Do?

Identity theft is pervasive and happens in many different ways. Here are some proactive measures you can take to help better protect yourself:

  • Do not carry a Social Security card in your wallet.
  • Do not give out a Social Security Number (SSN) over the phone or in a public place.
  • Do not send a SSN or date of birth in an email or a text.
  • Do not share an online user ID, password or PIN with others. Do not leave this information anywhere someone else can easily see or gain access to it.
  • Avoid easily guessed or common names and numbers for passwords and PINs. Change passwords regularly.
  • Close unused credit-card accounts and destroy old credit cards.
  • Use a shredder for documents containing personal information.
  • Request a copy of a credit report and keep tabs on who might be accessing it.
  • Use firewalls, anti-spam/virus software, and update security patches.

H&R Block can’t prevent identity theft from happening, but we can provide some helpful tips to better safeguard your information from would-be thieves. Our product, Tax Identity Shield® is specifically designed to help you better protect your tax identity. Tax Identity Shield® offers assistance applying for protection tools, a tax identity theft risk assessment to gauge your potential level of threat, and restoration assistance if you do become a victim of tax identity theft.

Find a tax professional at H&R Block near you now!

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Allie Freeland

Allie Freeland

Contributing Editor, H&R Block

Allie is the Contributing Editor of the H&R Block blog, Block Talk. She has been a practicing grammar geek since 2007.