Because of identity theft's prevalence, most of us have taken steps to protect ourselves - thanks to fears instilled from the horror stories of those who've been victimized.

But what about when someone hacks into a health facility, steals medical records and uses medical identification (ID) numbers to get health benefits?

Apparently few of us are concerned something like this will happen. We ignore the explanation of benefits from our health insurers, according to the World Privacy Forum, whose recent study, Medical Identity Theft: The Information Crime that Can Kill You, states that we should be looking closely.

Approximately 250,000 patients each year - or more, as some estimates reach higher - have their medical IDs stolen. The crooks use stolen identities to gain medical services or fraudulently bill private health insurers and government health-care programs.

If that isn't scary enough for you, consider this: The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association estimates that medical ID theft represents 1 percent of health-care fraud, totaling about $600 million in losses per year.

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Jim McKay, Justice and Public Safety Editor  |  Justice and Public Safety Editor