Keeping a track of your healthcare information can serve more than two benefits. Firstly, it will keep your fitness and wellbeing in check. Secondly, it will keep any medical identity and data theft, in check. Consider a situation where you get a hefty bill from your healthcare provider or a debt collecting agent contacts you enquiring about the overdue payments. In both these instances, what if you had not availed services from your provider or taken any loan? Then you could be a victim of medical identity theft.
So, how do you protect your medical and financial information, and ensure that these are not misused by anyone? Below, we have mentioned tips on how to protect such personal information and keep away from frauds.
- Be Wary of Fake Phone Calls and Emails
Time and again you may receive a warning SMS from your healthcare provider to never give out crucial information from anyone inquiring for it over a call. Such calls could be false, made to extract your medical information, and misuse it. So, if a healthcare representative asks for personal identifying information on a call, avoid it.
Similarly phishing over emails is also becoming common. You must not click on emails that you do not recognize. Do not download any material or click on a link from such emails. Restrict from providing details until you have verified the authenticity of the source. Also, create a separate email account for banking and healthcare, than that you use for social media.
- Reveal Only Little Personal Data at Hospitals
Share personal data only that is required with hospitals and doctor’s offices. For instance, when taking a medical insurance policy, you do not have to tell the insurer that you pay for the medicines with a specific credit card, or about a bank account for emergency fund to meet unexpected costs. Do not provide your Social Security Number, date of birth, driving licence number, etc, to clinics until they ask for it. If an institution demands for government-authorized identity card, then check if it is mandatory to submit the same.
- Protected Data Storage
Whether it is DVD, computer file, paper records, opt for secured data storage. If you have paper records, then carefully file and manage them under a password protected electronic lock, which cannot be easily accessed or interpreted. If you have to dispose the paper record, then shred the paper and destroy the file before burning or throwing away.
You can even store the records in an external hard drive and never share information about where you keep it with anyone else. You can take service of digital lockers and data storage at a low cost. If you store a file on a computer system or device, then purchase high-quality malware protection software. Do not forget to renew the software and anti-virus system on time.
- Avoid Using Public Wi-Fi
Do not access your financial and health accounts on public Wi-Fi. In case you have to use the Wi-Fi, run a virus scan beforehand. Check if any third-party can view your activities. Keep the screen protected from being looked at by anyone else, especially when entering information like username and password. It is best to clear the browsing history before you logout. Also, never click ‘remember password’, and likes.
- Check Your Credit History
You should check your credit history regularly to spot any unusual activity, like transactions you have not done personally. You can get a free credit report once a year from any of the three credit reporting agencies. By checking your credit history, you may be able to spot any identity theft or data breaches and report it immediately to the respective authority. Remember that you can get an additional free report from every credit reporting bureau in case you have been a victim of identity theft.
- Look Closely at Medical Statements
Check statements and communications from your medical insurance company, healthcare provider, pharmacy, etc. If you have access to your online medical records, then check the statement there every month, as you would your financial records. If internet records are unavailable, then you can ask the provider to share monthly summary of your records in a hardcopy. A nominal fee may be charged on each summary, but it is worth it, and important to keep frauds in check.
- Medical Identity Monitoring Service
Several companies today provide paid services for medical identity theft protection. If you are too occupied to keep a check on your healthcare reports, records, and credits, then you can hire someone to do all these tasks for you. These service providers will alert you on every transaction made and even spot unruly activities with help of specialized technology. They can take steps to contact respected company or provider and alert them about the theft.
- Be Wary of Social Media and Wearables
It is surely tempting to jump at any new health app like the one that tracks your food intake, or counts the calories you burn in a day, or the hours of sleep you get. To avail such services, you may have to provide your personal details. Before doing so, you must look at the collecting source and verify, if there is a concrete data privacy security in place or not. If you think the app or site looks fishy, steer off it.
Also, your medical information is personal and must not be shared on social media, fitness and mobile apps, or health websites. Otherwise, there will be a high risk of data theft.
- Keep Sensitive Accounts off Cloud Services
If you connect your accounts and devices on cloud services then exclude sensitive accounts. Store important files encrypted on a password protected system or physical external hard drive and not on online storage accounts. Even if you have to store the details online, look for services that offer a 2-factor password authentication.
Follow the above-given tips and you shall be better prepared to tackle instances of medical identity thefts. Maintain a ready list of all your accounts, so you can ask for new debit cards, credit cards, and change passwords for online accounts. If you spot any unusual activity regarding your medical or financial data, get in touch with your primary-care provider or the concerned company, immediately.