According to the 2013 Survey on Medical Identity Theft conducted by the Ponemon Institute and sponsored by the Medical Identity Fraud Alliance with support from ID Experts, the economic consequences of medical identity theft to victims are estimated to be more than $12.3 billion in out-of-pocket expenses in 2013 alone (h/t SC Magazine).

For the purposes of the study, medical identity theft is described as the use of an individual's name and personal identity to fraudulently receive medical services, goods, and/or prescription drugs, including attempts to commit fraudulent billing.

Half of all consumers surveyed weren't aware that medical identity theft can create life-threatening inaccuracies in their medical records that could result in a misdiagnosis, mistreatment or incorrect prescription -- and similarly, 50 percent of those surveyed don't take any steps to protect themselves.

"Medical identity theft is tainting the healthcare ecosystem, much like poisoning the town's water supply," Ponemon Institute chairman and founder Dr. Larry Ponemon said in a statement. "The survey finds that consumers are completely unaware of the seriousness and dangers of medical identity theft."

The survey found that 56 percent of medical identity theft victims lost trust and confidence in their healthcare provider as a result of the incident, and 57 percent said they would find another provider if they knew their healthcare provider could not safeguard their medical records.