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Experts Warn Against Sharing Medical Information Online

Updated: Thursday, February 13 2014, 03:33 PM CST
Medical identity theft is a growing national trend that has local medical professionals concerned. Criminals use your personal information, or insurance benefits, to cover their own medical bills.

The biggest concern with medical identity theft, is that an individual's medical history is jeopardized. When victims seek treatment for a serious illness, doctors won't have the right information to treat them.

Computer experts say protecting medical identity starts online. Very little of what someone does online is truly secure, and every bit of information posted on social media, can make him or her an easier target for medical identity theft.

"People post all kinds of stuff on Facebook about they've gone to see the doctor today, and put all kind of stuff about what they were treated for maybe. And I don't think you want everybody knowing that," Chair of the Computer Science Department at University of Illinois Springfield Ted Mims said.

By now, most consumers know better than to post their social security number online, but what about details of their health? Details like dates of doctor visits or a physician's name can all make it easier to gain access to someone's medical information. Criminals can use details like this to assume someone else's identify and get treatment that will show up on that person's medical history in the future. Victims may not notice the crime until an insurance claim is denied because they've reached a coverage limit or already had a procedure.

All medical facilities have rules to follow to help protect patients' privacy, but no one is completely immune.

"Following the rules that the government has put out with HIPPA is going to keep us up to date and current, making sure we're following all the processes to make sure we do not---or at least minimize any possible medical identity theft," Beaux Cole, owner and pharmacist at The Medicine Shoppe said.

The Medicine Shoppe is a small locally owned pharmacy and that makes it easier to identify customers, and spot anyone unfamiliar to ask for I.D.

Another way to keep medical records from being jeopardized is to never share them online, even in a private exchange.

"I would stay away from sending personal information on any email, because it's not secure," Mims said.

The Federal Trade Commission says it's also a good idea to check on your medical history regularly. Just like you would check your credit score with a credit reporting bureau; check your medical history with your insurance company and doctor. If anything is off, you can file an identity theft report.
Experts Warn Against Sharing Medical Information Online


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