Jessica H. Smith
Health + Tech /03 Oct 2018
and 10.03.18

Identity Fraud is the Silent Problem We Must Confront

Identity theft is a major problem not just in the United States, but internationally as well.

The UK, Canada, and Australia specifically have all faced this issue. That said, the lion’s share of identity theft cases originate in the United States.

From a recent report by Comparitech: “According to Javelin Strategy, the number of identity theft victims in the US rose to 16.7 million in 2017. The cost of all of that lost data amounts to over nearly $17 billion. 2017 was not the worst year for identity theft losses so far, however. By comparison, 2012 was the highest at a loss value of $21.8 billion. Additionally, Javelin Strategy found that children are increasingly the victims of identity fraud.”

This has been an issue for decades, but now it has reached a fever pitch due to the rise of computers and the Internet.

Just how out of control is the problem?

According to Symantec: “Over 791 million identities were stolen in the US in 2016. France was far behind in second place with 85 million identities stolen.” And according to The Motley Fool: “143 million Americans faced an increased risk of identity theft after a major Equifax hack stole millions of Social Security Numbers, birthdays, addresses, and even some drivers license numbers.”

Those numbers are absolutely unbelievable, and made even worse when you realize that the number of children and seniors — the most vulnerable among us — having their identities stolen has been on the rise far faster than any other groups.

Both groups are targeted because of the potential to use their identities to commit fraud against companies and governments.

What do I mean?

Well, in the United States, Medicare (poor seniors) and Medicaid (poor children) are perfect targets for unscrupulous people looking to pull off a con that can bring them significant cash.

Consider the state of Florida where a whopping $165 million in Medicaid fraud was uncovered by Health and Human Services: “Florida was second only to New York for Medicaid fraud recoveries last year, according to the report. There were a total of 664 investigations, 78 indictments and 51 convictions in Florida by the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. The $165.5 million in recoveries is the result of cases in Florida and participation in multi-state civil settlements.”

$1.8 billion in Medicaid fraud overall and that is just from what the government actually caught. And Medicare fraud?

That is far, far worse, with South Florida as the biggest offender and the government so swamped with claims that they do not even bother looking into anything below a certain dollar amount: “Medicare fraud threatens to overtake drug dealing as America’s favorite get-rich-quick pastime. The stealing has become so sweet that street criminals can easily pull in $25,000 a day without carrying a gun. Because the crime is so widespread, prosecutors don’t even bother going after anyone unless they’ve stolen $500,000 or more. The few who are caught and convicted typically get only modest sentences, making Medicare fraud the criminal equivalent of saccharine.”

Stealing an individual identity is a terrible crime because it can at best inconvenience and at worst significantly harm a person’s life.

But Medicare and Medicaid fraud is a crime against everybody, because those committing it are stealing from every single taxpayer in the United States.

State and local governments must crack down on fraud against private citizens and the government before this problem swallows us whole.

And for any cases that involve crossing state lines, the feds absolutely need to get involved as well.

I am not naive enough to think we can eliminate identity fraud completely. But it is imperative that we do a better job than we are doing now. Millions are suffering, and the current level of ineffectiveness is completely unacceptable.

We must find a better way to root out the people engaging in these practices and make sure they are severely punished for what they have done.

It will not be easy, but it is the only way forward.

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