Medical identity theft up 20 percent in the last year – report

You might want to start giving your health records and medical bills a closer look.

According to a new survey from the Ponemon Institute, an independent group that focuses on privacy and data security, medical identity theft is on the rise: since 2012, the number of people affected by medical identity theft has increased nearly 20 percent. The survey, which was sponsored by the Medical Identity Fraud Alliance and ID Experts, found that a total of about 1.84 million people in the U.S. have been affected.

For victims, the consequences are not only financial (last year, the groups estimate that medical identity theft led to more than $12 billion in out-of-pocket costs), they’re also medical.  Ponemon reports that those affected by medical identity theft are more prone to misdiagnosis and mistreatment or delayed treatment.

The report also said that, in some cases, patients put themselves at risk because they share health information with family members (committing so-called “family fraud”) so that loved ones can receive medical services or treatment.

Ponemon and its partners also said that the spread of electronic health records has complicated medical identity theft — hackers can break into servers to steal information or access data through medical devices and mobile apps.