Crimes of the chart

John Pulley reports:

A Colorado man receives a $44,000 bill for colon surgery he did not have. Social workers in Utah accuse a woman of giving birth to a methamphetamine-addicted baby and threaten to take away her children. A mortgage lender rejects an application to refinance the home of a couple whose credit history is riddled with mysterious claims of unpaid medical bills.

All are victims of medical identity theft, a crime involving the use of stolen personal information to pose as someone else for the purpose of getting drugs, medical treatment or health care equipment. The crime has long existed in a somewhat benign and largely dormant form. Now, as the health care sector transitions to electronic formats, it is metastasizing.

“Medical identity theft is a new term for an old problem,” said Barbara Cox, senior principal for the Information Management and Systems practice at Noblis, a not-for-profit science and technology consulting firm. “It is becoming more heightened because of moving more data electronically.”

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