A potentially dangerous new form of identity theft the News4 I-Team first reported on in 2013 is growing at a rapid pace, according to a new study. At least half of the perpetrators are people the victims know and maybe even love.
The Ponemon Institute report shows medical identity theft cases in the U.S. grew 21 percent last year.
"Medical I.D. theft is when someone uses someone else's identity to obtain medical goods or services," explained Ann Patterson of the Medical Identity Fraud Alliance (MIFA), whose group sponsored the study.
And unlike traditional identity theft, which mainly has a financial impact, Patterson said this crime can also have severe consequences for your health.
"Your medical identity is corrupted with the identity thief's health information. So their blood type, their allergies, their diseases, their health conditions that are not accurately reflecting your health," Patterson said. "It is most certainly a life-or-death situation."
The potential health impact is one aspect that had Ronnie Bogle worried when he started to suspect he'd become a victim.
"If something happened to me, and I was rendered unconscious and needed blood, and [someone else's records] pulled up, I could die," Bogle told the I-Team, "because I'm getting the wrong blood type."
Bogle suspected something was wrong when he got an automatic credit report five years ago. It showed multiple bills for medical treatments he said he never received.
Since then, Bogle's spent thousands of dollars and countless hours trying to clear the wrong information from his records.
"This isn't something that's just happening to me," Bogle said. "This is happening to a lot of other people that don't know about it."
That MIFA report shows more than 2 million people fell victim to medical identity theft in 2014. And in about half of the cases, those who carried out the fraud were friends or family members of the victims.
"About a quarter of the victims were somebody that they were complicit in sharing their medical identity," Patterson said, "and about another quarter were people that used [a friend or family member's medical identity] without their permission."
Ronnie Bogle said he falls into the "friends and family" category. He thinks his estranged brother Gary is the one who racked up the medical bills.
"'Do you have any idea what you've done to me and my life?' is what I'd like to ask him," Bogle said after he watched a police video of the man he blames being arrested for disorderly conduct while using his name.
The real Ronnie Bogle is still fighting to clear his name from police and court records, as well. The I-Team found Ronnie’s name on more citations filed just last month in Washington state, mainly for traffic and nuisance violations.
We reached out to the attorney for the man claiming to be Ronnie Bogle but did not hear back.
MIFA says everyone should protect their health insurance details and medical records the same way they would protect credit card and bank account info. And don't let possible concerns over privacy laws stop you from requesting information with your name.
"Victims are entitled to their own medical records in full, even if [they're] corrupted and [have] sensitive personal information about the identity thief in their record," Patterson said.
The group is also pushing for the medical industry to stop using Social Security numbers on records.