Dental Debt Collection Tips: Are You Protecting Your Patient’s Identity?

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2282_identitytheftIdentity theft is a rapidly growing issue in the United States. From major scandals like Target’s data breach last December that resulted in millions of people having their credit and debit card information stolen, to everyday occurrences like a misplaced wallet, identity theft is happening all around us everyday. Here are some startling statistics about identity theft from the U.S. Department of Justice:

  • Average number of U.S. identity fraud victims annually: 11,571,900
  • Percent of U.S. households that reported some type of identity fraud: 7%
  • Average financial loss per identity theft incident: $4,930
  • Total financial loss attributed to identity theft in 2013: $21 billion
  • Total financial loss attributed to identity theft in 2010: $13.2 billion
  • Percent of Reported Identity Thefts from Misuse of Existing Credit Card: 64%

Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Javelin Strategy & Research. Research Date: 6.18.2013

As you can see, Identity theft is on the rise, with the total financial loss attributed to this crime nearly doubling from 2010 to 2013. So what does any of this have to do with dentistry or dental debt collection? It’s all about protecting your patient’s identity.

A major issue in the debt collection industry is consumer protection and making sure payments made either over the phone or in person are secure and safe from identity/credit card theft. And while we highly suggest creating an online payment portal for your patients to securely pay their bill online at their own convenience, we realize many of your patients will always pay their bill when in your office or over the phone. So when they do, just make sure your front desk or administrative staff takes all the necessary steps to ensure your patient’s credit card or payment information is protected.

image 2For example, lets say a patient calls your office to pay for their latest visit. They provide their credit or debit card number, CVV code, and the name associated with the card – all of the information someone needs to begin the identity theft process. But how exactly is your staff member recording and securing this valuable information? Are they simply writing it down on a piece of paper and then processing the payment through your payment system? If so, what are they doing with the piece of paper containing the patient’s credit card info when they’re done? It should either be immediately destroyed once the payment has been processed, or stored in a secure environment for future authorized use. Or if the patient’s credit card information is entered into your computer system, who is authorized to access this information? Can any member of your staff view patient payment data? We suggest only allowing a limited number of your staff (those who handling patient billing and collections) to have the ability to view this data so that it strictly stays in the hands of the people who need it.

What this all comes down to is simply not being too casual when it comes to processing patient payments. Identity theft is serious issue and you and your staff need to do everything in your power to protect your patient’s personal information. So make sure when a patient offers you their credit or debit card to pay for your services, they don’t end up paying for more than they bargained for!

YOUR TURN: What steps do you take to protect your patient’s identity when processing payments? Are you guilty of being too cavalier when it comes to handling patient payment information? Let us know!

 

No Legal Advice Intended:  This communication is for informational purposes only and is not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances.  This communication does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and I.C. System, Inc.  You should contact an attorney for advice on specific legal issues.

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