Going to the doctor can be a stressful experience. Between concerns about your health and the expenses you might incur, the last thing you need is to have to worry about your privacy when you’re just taking care of yourself.
Unfortunately, medical offices are very attractive targets for criminals looking to steal information about you.
Last year alone, there were 363 major data breaches identified in the medical field. Nearly 10 million people were affected. In 141 of those breaches, patients’ Social Security numbers were exposed.
Don’t share your Social Security number with your doctor
Security breaches at medical offices are especially concerning because your medical history and treatment status are particularly private information. That’s why we have HIPAA laws.
When your health care data is tied to your Social Security number, you are doubly exposed if someone is able to gain access to your file.
Most people aren’t aware that you are not required to give your Social Security number to your doctor unless there is an issue involving Medicare or Medicaid. If a staff member insists that you have to provide one, politely decline. There is no compelling reason for them to have it.
Criminals who get their hands on your Social Security number can create false identities and even seek medical care in your name. They can create a clone of your identity, but with their picture on your ID cards. Then you get the bills and your medical records reflect an illness you don’t have, and collectors start coming after you for unpaid balance bills.
The medical industry needs to improve the job it does handling your info. Until they do that, follow this simple rule:
Do not give a doctor’s office, hospital, lab, or any medical facility your Social Security number on any form.
You can leave it blank or use a “dummy” number from the list here if they insist you fill one out. Here are some examples of how to create a dummy number:
Social Security numbers are constructed like this: AREA(3 numbers)-GROUP(2 numbers)-SERIAL(4 numbers)
- Make the AREA, GROUP, or SERIAL all zeroes (e.g, 000-45-6789, 123-00-6789, 123-45-0000)
- Make the AREA number 666 (it will never be issued)
- Make the AREA number 900-999 (not valid SSNs, but were used for program purposes when state aid to the aged, blind and disabled was converted to a federal program administered by SSA)
By taking this basic precaution, you can reduce the possibility of becoming an identity theft victim when you’re just trying to maintain your health.