Identity theft at doctor’s offices, hospitals, and other medical providers is booming. But there is a way to protect yourself.
The Identity Theft Resource Center reports almost half of all identity theft now is happening at medical providers like the ones just mentioned.
There are many reasons why medical identity theft is running rampant. High turnover in the back offices and too much paperwork floating around are chief among them. The scary reality is that one errant employee can steal the identities of hundreds if not thousands of people. Without question, this is the fastest growing area of identity theft.
So what can you do? Is this just another problem without a solution? No way.
Here’s my advice: Don’t fill in your Social Security number on any medical paperwork when you first go to a doctor. The only reason they want your Social Security is that so if you don’t pay, it’s easier to turn you over to a collection agency.
This is such an Achilles heel for identity theft. Don’t fill that number in. You won’t have ironclad protection, but it’s a good start.
Here are some additional tips to keep you out of harm’s way:
Use a shredder for papers that contain financial info before recycling. I’ve had many listeners suggests you should mix up your shredded financial papers with a dirty diaper if you have young kids. That will definitely deter an identity thief any day of the week!
Use OptOutPreScreen.com to remove your name from the mailing list of the credit card companies. That way won’t get the credit card apps that are so central for identity thieves. With OptOptPreScreen.com, you will have to disclose your Social Security number because that’s how the credit bureaus build a dossier on you.
Finally, freeze your credit if you’re really concerned about limiting any damage from possible identity theft.
About Clark Howard
Find more answers to your consumer questions, plus Clark Howard’s book “Living Large for the Long Haul,” at ClarkHoward.com.
Listen to Clark Howard weeknights from 6 to 9 p.m. on AM1290/95.7FM News Talk WHIO.