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Medical identity theft: Part 2

PHI is a bankable commodity. Hackers steal data and sell it to fraudsters. Individuals borrow or trade health information to fraudulently obtain coverage for services. Medical identity theft is a highly personal crime that can impact the victim's finances, personal and professional life, and health. Protecting this data is a tall order and involves staff in diverse departments, from front desk registration to information security.

"It doesn't take much to steal a credit card and use it for a hit-and-run buying spree, but healthcare data includes far more personal information," says Kate Borten, CISSP, CISM, HCISSP, founder of The Marblehead Group in Marblehead, Massachusetts. PHI often includes the individual's name, address, and Social Security number, along with medical record numbers and insurance identification number.

Understanding how to detect medical identity theft and how to mitigate its effects can help organizations reduce the prevalence of such crime.

Medical identity theft can be difficult to detect, says Chris Apgar, CISSP, founder of Apgar and Associates, LLC, in Portland, Oregon.

"There is no national tracking system in place like there is with, say, theft of credit card data. I could perpetrate Medicaid fraud using the same data in multiple states, and unlike with credit cards, there is no national system to detect and shut down medical identity theft," he says.

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