Man falls victim to medical identity mix-up

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — “I just look at it like it would never happen to me,” said Richard Croce. But unfortunately for him, he couldn’t be more wrong.

Recently Croce became the victim of a medical identity mix-up, so he turned to the Target 12 Investigators for help.

Croce’s medical identity nightmare started with a phone call.

“I was contacted by an attorney,” he said. The question that followed rocked Croce into a tailspin.

“He asked why I didn’t disclose to him that I was arrested and in police custody and brought to the hospital,” he recalled.

Important Tips: Avoiding Medical Identity Theft »
Important Tips: Avoiding Medical Identity Theft »

According to medical records given to Target 12 by Croce, who is the relative of a Channel 12 employee, he was taken to Roger Williams Medical Center complaining of “chest pains” while “under police custody” with Johnston police.

“I was shocked that he was saying that to me,” said Croce.

Shocked, because although his name is Croce, he was never in police custody. And a closer look at his medical records shows a litany of medical problems that aren’t his. To make matters even worse, Croce’s medical insurance was billed for that hospital visit.

Johnston police told Target 12 the patient they transported did share the same name as Croce, but he had no identification on him. And since Croce was a previous patient at Roger Williams Medical Center, Croce said the hospital made the assumption they were the same person.

In a statement to Target 12, the hospital says “CharterCARE has a robust multi-layered process to check and verify patient identification. Notwithstanding, in emergency situations, this identification process does not prevent or delay prompt, high quality treatment.”

Although Croce’s medical identity mistake wasn’t the result of a data breach, the impact could be just as harmful.

“2015 has proven to be the year of medical breach,” said Matt Cullina, an identity theft expert and CEO of the company IDT911. Cullina says that as electronic health records become more prevalent, doctors and hospitals aren’t doing enough to secure our information.

Consumer Guide: Avoiding Scams & Schemes »
Consumer Guide: Avoiding Scams & Schemes »

“90 percent of all health care organizations report that they had a breach within the last year,” said Cullina. “And 40 percent claim to have had five breaches in the last two years.”

Just this year alone, 77 percent of all breached records have come from medical data breaches.

“This tells you the thieves are not stupid,” Cullina added. “They are targeting troves of data, and that medical data is so rich for them that they can sell it down the line and make a lot of money.”

In order to keep your medical records safe from cyber thieves, first ask your doctor for a copy of your file. Look for any fraudulent illnesses, prescriptions or treatments.

Next, ask your doctors how they’re protecting your data. Are they encrypting it? And if they’re not, ask them why and demand they do encrypt it. Because with your medical information in the wrong hands, there’s no telling what can happen next.

“I know there’s going to be a lot of stones to overturn.” said Croce of his identity dilemma. “I just don’t know what they are. You don’t know what people are capable of doing today.”

Roger Williams Medical Center did contact Croce’s medical insurance company and reimbursed them. As for Croce, he’s still got the daunting task of clearing up his medical records ahead of him.

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