Florida is a retiree's mecca, but along with the warmer climate comes a much higher risk of identity theft. And because retirees have benefits their younger neighbors don't, medical identity theft can pose a big problem.
On a per capita basis, 361 Floridians out of every 100,000 were the victims of identity fraud in 2012, according to the Federal Trade Commission's latest figures. Georgia ranked second, with 194 reports per 100,000, and California ranked No. 3 at 123 per 100,000 — a third the rate of victims in Florida.
Blogger Paul McNamara called Florida's lead "mindboggling" this morning (May 20) on his blog 'Net Buzz on Network World, a website for IT executives.
The FTC issues an annual report based on consumer complaints received from a variety of sources, including its own complaint hotline and Better Business Bureaus across the country. In 2012, the FTC logged more than 2 million complaints, an increase of 9 percent compared with 2011.
Along with state rankings, the report also compared major metropolitan areas. And here's where the news gets really bad for Florida . Out of the top 10 riskiest areas, Florida secured nine of the 10 slots.
At the top of the list was Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, where the number of reported identity thefts soared to 645 per 100,000. Even the 10th-ranked area on the Gulf side, Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, had 233 reports per 100,000 residents, a figure that was still higher than any other state.
Of the nearly 70,000 identity thefts reported in Florida, 72 percent involved government documents or benefits fraud. [Read also: 8 Ways Seniors Can Avoid Identity Theft ]
But the fact is that no matter where you live, you have a higher chance of becoming the victim of identity theft if you're a retiree. Thieves count on deeper medical benefits and more frequent trips to the doctor that could mask fraudulent use in a pile of service statements — making seniors a more attractive target than younger neighbors.
Thieves use personal information such as Social Security numbers and medical insurance data to see a doctor, get prescription drugs and file claims with retirees' insurance providers.
Taking preventive measures is the best way to prevent medical fraud. Safeguard your insurance card the same way you do your credit card . Likewise, don't give your insurance identity numbers to anyone other than a reputable health care provider. However, even those who are careful can be victimized — and there are signs to watch for.
Signs of medical identity fraud
Are you being ripped off? In addition to carefully reviewing each statement you receive from your health plan to make sure it matches with the treatment you've received, also watch for:
- A notice from your health plan saying you reached your benefit limit, which doesn't jibe with the benefits you've claimed.
- A denial of insurance because your medical records show a condition you don’t have.
- A call from a debt collector about a medical debt you don’t owe.
- Medical collection notices on your credit report that you don’t recognize.
If you see a discrepancy, immediately call your provider and explain the problem.