Experts: Stolen patient data is most lucrative form of identity theft

EHRs more expensive black market buy than Social Security numbers

On the black market, a Social Security number will cost identity thieves about $3 and credit card information will cost $1.50. A set of electronic health records (EHRs), however, rings in at about $50.

According to a panel of cybersecurity experts at the recent Digital Health Conference in New York, medical identity theft has become one of the most lucrative forms of identity theft.

The stolen EHRs, health insurance information, and other personal health data can be used to make false or inflated insurance claims, get prescription drugs, or obtain medical treatment at the account holder's expense. Unlike a credit card number, patients' health information cannot be canceled or altered to prevent criminals from using the data, notes John DeLuca of IT company EMC.

Some fraudsters obtain personal health data through "phishing" scams in which they pretend to be a representative of a physician practice or insurance company. Data breaches at health care facilities also can lead to medical identity theft.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, medical identity theft can cause patients to receive bills for illegal claims, have a lower credit score because of unpaid medical bills, be denied coverage because of claims filed by a fraudster, and lose health insurance coverage (Petrochko, MedPage Today, 12/7).

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