COSTA MESA, Calif., June 26, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Medical identity theft is a crime of opportunity that can strike close to home. In fact, according to the Ponemon Institute®'s "Third Annual National Study on Medical Identity Theft(1)," commissioned by Experian's ProtectMyID®, half of all survey respondents indicate that they know the person responsible for stealing their identity. Further, more respondents (increased by 5 percent from 2011), reported they actually permitted family members to use their personal identification to obtain medical services including treatment, healthcare products or pharmaceuticals.
The 2012 national study conducted by the Ponemon Institute surveyed 757 medical identity theft victims and found this crime to be more prevalent than ever before. In previous studies, many of the respondents could not define the crime. Data from this new survey indicates that the number of participants who understand the definition of medical identity theft has increased 13 percent since 2011, from 77 to 90 percent. Despite this, 52 percent of victims surveyed did not report the crime to law enforcement or authorities.
"There are specific things that people can and should do to protect themselves from medical identity theft," said Ken Chaplin, senior vice president of marketing for Experian's ProtectMyID. "As this survey underscores, people have to be vigilant with their personal information and avoid letting their guard down, even with family and friends."
The extrapolated survey results also reveal that an estimated average of 2 million Americans are victims of medical identity theft yearly, and the estimated total cost of that theft, based on mean value, is roughly $41 billion — a significant increase from the $30.9 billion estimated in 2011. For individuals, the cost also has increased, rising to $22,346 from last year's $20,663.
Additional key findings from the survey include:
- Consumers lose trust. According to 51 percent of respondents, the primary nonfinancial consequence reported by respondents is a loss of trust and confidence in their healthcare provider.
- Victims pay out-of-pocket to resolve medical identity theft. Survey results show that the primary method used to resolve the theft was the victim reimbursing the fraudulent charges to the healthcare provider. Forty-five percent of respondents paid the healthcare provider or insurer for services obtained by the thief.
- It takes a long time to recover. On average, it took respondents approximately one year (12.1 months) to resolve the theft. Twenty-five percent say it took more than two years.
- Most people don't check medical records. Fifty-seven percent of respondents never check their medical records to verify accuracy of the information. Many respondents don't know how to check their health information (49 percent), and they trust their healthcare providers to be accurate (46 percent). Furthermore, nearly 1 in 5 respondents (18 percent) say they don't care about the accuracy of their medical records.
- Inaccurate medical records can be harmful to health. Altered medical records can result in the wrong treatment, particularly if the victim has an illness and doesn't get properly treated or vice versa if the victim doesn't have a specific illness and gets unnecessary treatment. This year's survey notes that 20 percent of respondents say their medical records were accessed or modified.
- Action is important. To prevent future incidents, victims surveyed say they will never share medical insurance ID/credentials with anyone (35 percent), will monitor credit reports (26 percent) and will review their medical records (26 percent). Conversely, almost half (48 percent) said they won't take any new precautions.
"Medical identity theft hits consumers both medically and financially," said Dr. Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute. "For three years in a row, our findings have consistently shown that medical identity theft crime continues to increase in terms of prevalence and costs to the victim."
About the study
Fieldwork for this research was concluded in February 2012, and 807 consumers in the United States participated in this study, completing a Web-based survey. Of these, 757 said they or their immediate family members have been victims of medial identity theft. 44 percent of respondents have private insurance, 21 percent have Medicare or Medicaid, and 20 percent are not insured.
About Ponemon Institute®
Ponemon Institute is dedicated to advancing responsible information and privacy management practices in business and government. To achieve this objective, the Institute conducts independent research, educates leaders from the private and public sectors, and verifies the privacy and data protection practices of organizations in a variety of industries.
About Experian's ProtectMyID
ProtectMyID is a leading, full-service provider of identity theft detection, protection and resolution. ProtectMyID offers comprehensive identity theft protection products supported by experienced identity theft resolution professionals who deliver personal attention that customers can rely on. ProtectMyID.com is a Website owned by ConsumerInfo.com, Inc., an Experian company. For more information about how ProtectMyID helps consumers protect themselves against identity theft, please visit http://www.ProtectMyID.com.
Experian is the leading global information services company, providing data and analytical tools to clients around the world. The Group helps businesses to manage credit risk, prevent fraud, target marketing offers and automate decision making. Experian also helps individuals to check their credit report and credit score, and protect against identity theft.
Experian plc is listed on the London Stock Exchange (EXPN) and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 index. Total revenue for the year ended 31 March 2012 was US$4.5 billion. Experian employs approximately 17,000 people in 44 countries and has its corporate headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, with operational headquarters in Nottingham, UK; California, US; and Sao Paulo, Brazil.
For more information, visit http://www.experianplc.com.
Experian and the Experian marks used herein are service marks or registered trademarks of Experian Information Solutions, Inc. Other product and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners.
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(1)Survey conducted in March 2012 by Ponemon Institute