The Federal Trade Commission is teaming with local governments to spread the word about the fastest-growing type of identity theft: medical ID theft.
Vee Johnson, of the Fairfax County's Consumer Affairs Division, wants local residents, especially senior citizens, to guard their personal health information just as closely as they guard their money.
"Protect your Medicare card, protect your health insurance card just as you would a credit card," she says.
Johnson says that to a medical ID thief, a health insurance card could be even more valuable than a credit card because with most credit cards there's a spending limit.
But at Hollin Hall Senior Center today, Johnson also explained how medical ID theft is a health risk as well as a financial one: It can lead to misdiagnosis from doctors looking at the wrong personal information.
Ann Connell says she's always been careful with her Medicare card, but now she plans to spend some extra time reading through the information release forms she's never bothered to read at the doctor's office.
"I just automatically sign it because it's just tons of paragraphs of stuff -- I don't think it's...going to affect me," Connell says. "Well, now I'm going to read it."
A recent study by the Ponemon Institute -- a group dedicated to privacy and data protection -- showed that nearly 6 percent of Americans have been victims of medical identity theft.