4 Ways Identity Theft Can Impact Your Health

January 27, 2015 Updated: April 23, 2016

You would have to live under a rock not to know that identity theft can devastate your bank account and ravage your credit score. Similarly, you probably also know that severe cases of identity theft can even affect the victim’s criminal record, possibly even resulting in wrongful criminal charges. What you might not know, however, is that ID theft is bad for more than just your pocketbook and reputation—it can also be deleterious to your health. Read on to learn four ways identity theft can harm your health.

Severe Emotional Distress


s Severe Emotional Distress

Image via Flickr by DeeAshley

According to the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, almost half of identity theft victims in 2012 who spent six months or more dealing with the financial aftermath of the crime experienced severe emotional distress. This distress can manifest as one or several of a Pandora’s box of mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, rage, problem drinking, paranoia, and family and/or marital problems, including divorce. In a recent article, CNN identified this troubling emotional fallout one of the many hidden costs of identity theft.

Not surprisingly, emotional turmoil of this magnitude also often triggers physical ailments. As Harvard Medical School notes, emotional distress can lead to physical problems such as insomnia, poor digestion, lethargy, hypertension, and cognitive disturbances like poor concentration or memory. In this way, identity theft prevention services can safeguard your physiological well-being just as much as your finances.

Discontinued Health Care and Disability Benefits

If someone gets a hold of your identity, the misuse of your social security number might lead to the denial, interruption, or termination of medical benefits, such as health insurance or social security disability benefits. For example, individuals may steal social security cards or numbers in order to gain employment in the U.S. If someone stole your social security number and began earning an income under it, you might then be precluded from obtaining benefits like social security disability income and Medicare that are employment status or income based.

Alternatively, a thief might take out a health insurance policy under your name, a form of medical identity theft. Assume the thief falls into ill health and his poor medical history then attaches to your name. A few months later, you go to apply for a quote on health insurance, and you’re greeted by astronomically high premiums from your prospective insurer due to the fact that you have two pre-existing conditions: diabetes and cancer. The only problem is that you don’t have either disease; the thief does, and now you can’t afford health insurance because of it.

Denial of Prescription Medication

Not all identity thieves seek pecuniary gain; some are simply junkies desperate for a fix. This variety of identity thief steals identities in order to intercept their victims’ prescription medications. For instance, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a woman in Missouri created fake driver’s licenses for her victims that she then used to access their medical records from a local facility. She was then able to leave with prescriptions in her victims’ names.

Likewise, a dental office employee in Ohio stole information from Medicaid patients to obtain prescription drugs illegally. Imagine if you were one of these victims, and you showed up at the pharmacy in need of critical prescription medication. The pharmacy can potentially turn you away, since, by their records, that prescription was too recently filled.

Wearable Health Tech Woes

How can a Fitbit possibly be bad for your health? Wearable technology has found an eager audience in health and fitness enthusiasts, many of whom swear by fitness bands and activity monitors like Jawbone and Fitbit. The concern here, though, is that these devices transmit highly sensitive personal information almost constantly via Bluetooth, and that information is not secure. All the data the device gathers is stored in the manufacturer’s database, making it a valuable target for hackers. 

While the financial ills that stem from identity theft may be more plentiful, the physical ills of the crime are undeniable. If your health is a priority to you, instead of buying an insecure wearable fitness tracker, think instead about investing in identity theft prevention.