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With Medical Identity Theft Rising, How Can You Avoid The Consequences?

medical ID theft Medical identity theft is a serious national health care issue. It’s one of the fastest-growing frauds in the world today in relation to identity theft, and one that causes all kinds of problems for the victims and health care organizations the patient information is stolen from.

Currently on the Evolution Market — an underground online black market that traffics narcotics and fraud-related goods — more and more stolen medical records are being sold. After suppliers gain access to this site using a software that helps disguise who they are, they sell “fullz” to buyers on this site, which are packages containing the personal and financial data a thief needs to fraudulently open new lines of credit under a victim’s name. Here’s the victim’s information these packages contain:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Driver’s license number
  • Social Security number
  • Date of birth
  • Bank name
  • Bank routing number
  • Checking and savings account numbers
  • Medical history

A package of 5 “fullz” sells for about $40 on this site, but if people buy in bulk — which many do with this kind of information — they pay just under $7 for a pack of 50 or more.

Stolen PHI is becoming more valuable on these black markets than traditional financial information. Under Part 1 of the 2013 survey by Ponemon Institute found in paragraph 4 on page 2 of the documented survey, an estimated 1.84 million American people fell victim to medical identity theft. This survey also showed this number increased by 19 percent from the previous year.

Medical identity theft is now more of an issue, and a more complex issue, because of the increased use of electronic health records and mobile devices. Victims and health care organizations suffer from the consequences of this rising problem. Consequences include financial damages and compromised medical records. It also affects a health care organization’s reputation and the relationship with their patients whose information is stolen. In the abovementioned survey in the first paragraph on page 8, it states that 56% of respondents who’d experienced this traumatic situation lost the trust and confidence in their providers.

Your organization doesn’t want this kind of issue. So, how do you combat this rising health care problem? You better protect and secure your information. Below are 5 ways you can do that.

  1. Use HIPAA security software.

HIPAA security software is a cost-effective way to ensure your network and processes keep patient information secure and are HIPAA compliant. This software analyzes your risk level, identifies any holes in your network and offers instructions on how to fix any problems it encounters. It’s a great tool to help your organization avoid HIPAA violations and to protect your information via the devices and network you use to store, access and transmit this information.

  1. Install an encryption program.

Encryption converts your information into a form that can’t be read without a decryption key or password. Be sure to install an encryption program, especially with emails, so sensitive information isn’t found and stolen. Some mobile devices already have encryption availability. If the ones your organization uses do, then enable them.

  1. Enable firewalls around your network.

Firewalls help protect your network from unauthorized connections. They intercept any incoming connection attempt, and then block attempts based on certain guidelines. Firewalls are your network’s best line of defense.

  1. Implement authentication procedures.

Have some type of authentication method set up to access your information, i.e. passwords, PINs, passcodes or an identification process. You can implement these onto devices, networks and even certain rooms or areas of your building to prevent unauthorized access.

  1. Educate and train employees on computer and network security.

One of the best ways to protect your organization and its information is educating and training employees on what they need to know about and actions they should take with computer and network security. If employees don’t know, how are they supposed to be a level of security for your organization? Hold special training meetings for all your employees so they walk away with a complete understanding of computer and network security and knowing what they should and shouldn’t do.

There isn’t one solution to solve this rising medical identify theft problem. But what’s going to start helping this issue is health care organizations implementing processes and best practices to better protect their information, which in turn protects their patients and themselves.

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