$60 Gets You A New Medical Record And Free Foot Amputation

from the I-stole-a-colonoscopy dept

We’ve talked at length about how hard it is to straighten out your record after you’ve had your identity stolen, assuming you know you’re a victim in the first place. While it’s one thing to debate a purchase with your credit card company, it’s an entirely different animal trying to convince your medical provider you still retain possession of both of your feet. One 57-year-old Florida woman found that after her identity was stolen, the information was used to pay for a costly foot amputation. Worse, after heading in for a hysterectomy, she found that the scammer’s medical history was now intertwined with her own — the records suggesting she had magically acquired some of the scammer’s medical conditions (like diabetes). Statistics show some 250,000 Americans had their medical information stolen and misused in recent years, with user records selling for around $60 a pop on the black market. It’s not always individual scammers looking to get free medical care, and the information doesn’t always come from industry insiders. Organized crime rings frequently run insurance scams at bogus clinics, who promise discount health care to the gullible. The scams are amplifying the existing fears surrounding national medical ID systems, since a record that once just resided in your doctor’s office would now be present in a multitude of databases — databases you know will ultimately wind up on some boob’s stolen laptop. Still, human stupidity and crap privacy protection policies are problems whether you’re talking about manila folders or a national fiber-connected medical database.

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “$60 Gets You A New Medical Record And Free Foot Amputation”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
misanthropic humanist says:

blind faith in technology

This is not a problem of identity theft. It isn’t a problem of security or anything intrinisically wrong with the idea of a national database.

It is problem of psychology. Of ignorance, fear, compliance.

We have a comedy character in the UK called Carol Beer in Little Britain.


The principle behind Carol is that she is a disaffected, vindictive, frightened and horribly insecure little Nazi who could not think for herself if here life depended on it. She is the ultimate drone, the modern manifestation of the concentration camp guard who is “just following orders”.

When a woman walks into hospital, clearly sporting TWO (count them) feet, and the official contradicts her it is not a problem that because of bad security, consequent identity theft and data corruption the records are at odds. It is problem that the officials inability to admit or act on the fact that the data is in error trumps what is clearly before their own eyes!

If real, visible, tangible reality contradicts what is on the computer then the computer is wrong, plain and simple. If I ordered the product in white and you sent me a black one the computer is wrong , plain and simple. If I know my age is 40 and your computer says it is 42, your computer is wrong plain and simple.

In short – I couldn’t care less what your computer record says about
what *I* maintain the authoratitive version of. By definition I define the authorative version , not the computer.

To contradict self evident truth by appeal to an inanimate authority is mental illness.

And if you are so pathetic and disempowered as to not be able to make common sense human decisions based on all the available data
instead of following a computer script then you may as well go and jump in the sea because you have no value as a human being. Your job would be much better done by another unthinking computer (and probably will be very soon).

Critic says:

Re: blind faith in technology

I fail to see how your argument, while generally valid, applies in this instance.

The ‘identity theft’ victim in this case, did indeed personally confront the insurer. Since it was patently obvious that she had both legs firmly attached, it was determined that she was a victim of stolen identity. So, the subject in this case was not a victim of individuals who had a ‘blind faith in technology’. Rather she was saved because your so called drones questioned the authority of said technology.

Score one for the drones.

misanthropic humanist says:

Re: Re: blind faith in technology

Quite right. In this case we have an absurdity and a situation that really cannot be argued with. The presence of two fully functioning feet being…. well “irrefutable” is a word that seems appropriate.

But consider less dramatic everyday cases. As Mr Burger says – what about those times when you arrive at emergency unconscious?
You have a dog tag that states you are diabetic and allergic to anti-biotics, but the database says otherwise. What would be the correct human decision by the attending doctor? Personally (and I’m not a doctor and know very little about medicine) I would treat the tags as gospel and ignore the database. What would you do? Even if you risked dismissal because you are told the database is infallible?

And here’s where this whole “too much faith in technology” thing gets bad… in a situation where one party is deliberately misleading the information trail, in social engineering attacks against security perhaps. We all know the very good arguments against RFID passports – the security staff believe that the system is infallible, so the tall swarthy guy with big brown eyes and an AK47 tucked under his coat walks straight through because the chip says OKAY! Even though the data profile says he is a 5 foot blonde woman with blue eyes. Maybe there are no security staff, after all the system is so infallible that they fired them all.

I’m cruel and unpleasant to “drones” in my first post, but you know I’ve done those low paid jobs too, just like most of us have. I know the score. 10 years ago it would be acceptable to tell the customer that “Hey maybe the computer is wrong, let’s call someone”. Now front line employees are used as nothing more than biological buffers and told never to question the system under penalty of dismissal. That is an unreasonable and inhuman position to be put in. Especially if lives are at stake.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: blind faith in technology

You make one mistake: Computers cannot be wrong.

Humans can enter incorrect information. Humans can abuse the system. Humans can make mistakes. That is the problem. Some people want to blame the computer, because they don’t want to admit a mistake, error, or fraud. Other people ignore errors or fraud because they don’t want to make the effort to resolve the situation. But in neither situation is the computer “wrong”.

TW Burger (profile) says:

RE: blind faith in technology by misanthropic huma

True, you are the best source of your own medical information. The problem is if you enter the hospital injured and can not contradict the computer.

Yes, Carol Beer syndrome is is a serious affliction. I have never once seen a completely correct database (I work as a DBA), but the information input by underpaid, overworked clerks is considered holy scripture by remarkably well educated, highly paid professionals.

misanthropic humanist says:

and furthermore

.. and (sorry to hog all the posts with my opinionated guff, but I think this is worth elaborating on)

The push towards a unified global database of identities is insidious and doomed to failure for many reasons, but in a way I am advocating for the “drones” here.

10 or 15 years ago I would visit my bank and say hello to the staff. I knew the names of the tellers, even enough to chit chat about their personal lives while we waited for a receipt to print or something. The question of identity was a HUMAN FACTOR. They knew my face. They knew my job was in computing because I volunteered that in a socially friendly way as conversation. They even knew what my dogs name was because the manager owned the same breed.

I remember being questioned by immigration officers on returning to England after a holliday. There was eye contact. There was a brief and intelligent conversation where the officer asked me about my home town. In just a few seconds we talked about how the market is laid out on a Saturday so that you can’t drive through and who sells the best used CDs and records. Turns out her kids are at university in the same town and know the market well so I am am quickly waved through with a smile.

Sure, maybe working on a bank counter or as airport security isn’t the most glamorous job, but it is a HUMAN job.

So, my point is maybe not what you think….

The push for a unified database on all individuals has an objective that I don’t think is widely seen. It is a dream of the cheap labour capitalists to remove humans and human thought processes from the machinary altogether. In my own country there are madmen with the insane vision of bypassing the criminal justice system, police, judges and 800 years of our magnificent legal system, deeming people criminals based on a computer profile and locking them up a priori for crimes they ***MIGHT*** commit!!!

This lethal combination of low cost capitalism, state authoritarianism, and blind faith in dubious technology is a potential menace to everyone at all levels of society and we should fight it by calling it what it is.

Wyndle says:

The bigger picture... even more bleak

National IDs, global records, and RFID may seem extremely bad each in their own right, but combined as they soon will be they are the begining of the end game. Think back to the formation of the EU. Who really thought it was a good idea besides a select few?

NAFTA helped the US economy? CAFTA is going to save the Central American workers? No, and no. NAFTA expedited “outsourcing” and CAFTA will only magnify the effect ten fold. Sure, it will create jobs in areas that have few but the pay will be pennies per hour if they are lucky.

US Federal Tax is voluntary, but let’s see someone try to “not volunteer.” Yes, filing the 1040 is completely voluntary because when you sign it you wave your 4th and 5th Amendment rights (privacy and bear witness against yourself). The tax code is very specific about making the 1040 voluntary for that reason, but they threw in a catch-22 in that the Secretary of the Treasury can file one for you based on what info they can find out through investigation, and this one is considered true and good instantly. (source anti-irs.com)

Look over the big picture and you see everything converging with only a select few in power. Yes Virginia, there is a new world government forming…

Additional info:

US[google video ~1 hour 50 min]

UK[google video ~30 min]

misanthropic humansit says:


Yep, Wyndles right. Computational infallibilty is a rotten myth. Ever heard of alpha particles and ECC (error correcting codes)? That’s why
we have an extra parity bit in memory chips. But that isn’t certain to catch all errors.

And if you’ve watched Brazil then you know how much damage a single fly can do 🙂

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...