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HMSA Member News > Member NewsFall 2006 IS Magazine

Under Wraps: Your Personal Information

HMSA's privacy policies help protect members against identity theft.

By LeeAnn Lindsey, Manager, Customer Service, HMSA

When it comes to personal information, privacy is essential. And here at HMSA, we all understand that safe-guarding our members' privacy – which includes personal, confidential information – is a top priority.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) was enacted to ensure that working people continue to receive health care coverage when changing jobs. Other requirements of the law resulted in better protection of patients' privacy. HMSA's privacy policies, which comply with HIPAA, allow us to use your information to conduct our daily business.

Working together, HMSA's policies, HIPAA, and your personal efforts all help to safeguard your personal information. Identity theft occurs when someone takes your personal information and uses it for their financial gain.

Be aware of identity theft and learn how you can help prevent it.

How do thieves get my personal information?

There are many ways, including:

  • Stealing mail such as credit card applications, account statements and checks.
  • Stealing items from your home, business or vehicle that contain personal information.
  • Searching through trash for discarded bank or credit card statements, and other documents.
  • Phishing, which uses authentic-looking emails that appear to be from a legitimate company requesting that you "confirm" information such as account names and numbers, passwords, or Social Security numbers. Thieves posing as company representatives may also get such information by calling you on the phone.

What can thieves do with my personal information?

  • Thieves can create fake ID cards with your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number, etc., with their photo.
  • Thieves can open new bank or credit card accounts, or obtain a loan in your name.
  • To avoid a traffic citation or an arrest, thieves can give the police your personal information.

How will I know if my identity has been stolen?

  • Your credit card bills or bank statements contain unexplained charges or withdrawals.
  • You receive calls from debt collectors about products or services that you did not buy.
  • You fail to receive bills or other mail.
  • You are denied credit for no apparent reason.

What should I do if I think my identity was stolen?

Place a fraud alert on your credit reports by immediately contacting any one of these consumer reporting companies:

When you place a fraud alert in your file, you are entitled to free copies of your credit reports. If you find fraudulent or inaccurate information (accounts you didn't open, inquiries from companies you haven't contacted, unfamiliar charges, etc.), have it removed.

How does HMSA protect me against identity theft?

At HMSA, our Customer Service representatives and other employees follow strict procedures to protect our members' identity. Prior to addressing a caller's or visitor's inquiry, for example, our representatives will obtain appropriate information to verify their identity and authority to receive confidential information.

Our claims processing system does not use Social Security numbers to identify members. Also, remember that HMSA will never ask you for personal information via email.

If you see an unfamiliar service on your Report to Member statement from HMSA, please call your local HMSA office to report the discrepancy. And if you receive a suspicious phone call from someone saying they're from HMSA, call HMSA for verification before releasing any personal or health information.

Island Scene Online is not intended to replace the advice of health care professionals. Please consult your physician for your personal needs and before making any changes in your lifestyle.
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