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Medical ID Theft Can Put Health, Finances In Danger

(CBS) -- We all worry about keeping our credit cards safe, but we should be just as concerned about protecting our medical insurance information.

As CBS 2 Marissa Bailey reports, medical ID theft is a fast-growing crime that can put your finances and health in danger.

It's the most important thing in your wallet. Darrell Langlois of Blue Cross Blue Shield says your insurance card is worth a fortune to an identity thief.

"The thing that criminals are starting to see now is this health insurance card and the identities of those people are worth money to them," Langlois said.

Anyone can steal your insurance card and use it to pose as you to get free medical treatment and more.

It's a crime on the rise, says security expert Dr. Marie-Helen Maras. She points to the high cost of healthcare as a contributing factor.

Researchers at the Ponemon Institute estimate more than a million people were victims of this type of"medical identity theft in 2013 alone.

What's worse--few people even realize they've been victimized until it's too late.

"You'll receive a bill from a doctor for a service that you never received or maybe even a written notice from a collection agency for a medical debt," said Dr. Maras.

And there are more than just financial consequences to medical identity theft, there are also health consequences.

"Sometimes you may be treated when you're not conscious and when family members may not be around and there is nothing more to go on than your medical records. If that medical record is not accurate, wrong decisions can be made," said Langlois.

It took one mother of four years to sort out the mess when her medical identity was stolen by someone who racked up bills at two different hospitals.

"This is why we need to protect our medical identification card the same way we would our social security number," said Dr. Maras.

Experts say to protect yourself, pay careful attention to your medical statements and bills to look for any services or treatments that should not be there. Keep your card in a safe place and if you suspect you are a victim of medical id theft, contact your insurance fraud department right away.

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