Medical Identify Theft: Nearly 100 million records hacked in the past year
Hackers may have stolen the personal information- including social security numbers- of nearly 100 million people, in several high profile cyberattacks on the nation’s medical databases in just the past year. During the latest attack, announced in mid-July, 4.5 million records, including names, addresses, birth dates, social security numbers and medical information, were hacked on the UCLA Health system. Other major intrusions have included:
- Premera Blue Cross said a “sophisticated attack” may have given hackers access to social security numbers, bank account information, email addresses and private medical records of 11 million members.
- One of the nation’s biggest insurers, Anthem, was victim of an attack that exposed 78.8 million records, again, including social security numbers.
- Community Health Systems announced last August that 5 million patient records were stolen in a cyber-attack they believe came from China. The records were non-medical, but included personal information and social security numbers.
This wave of security breaches highlights a growing trend in medical identity theft. By 2013, the latest data available, medical cyber-hacks accounted for 40 percent of all cyberattacks, up from just 20 percent in 2009. And it’s no wonder medical data is ripe for theft, since your medical information is worth 10 times what your credit card information is worth on the black market, according to Reuters News Agency.
Foreshadowing the latest attacks, the FBI distributed a private notice to health care providers in 2014, warning that their cybersecurity systems were vulnerable.
“The healthcare industry is not as resilient to cyber intrusions compared to the financial and retail sectors, therefore the possibility of increased cyber intrusions is likely,” the FBI report said, according to Reuters.
Most of us know what it’s like to have our credit card numbers stolen and the steps necessary to recover funds and obtain new cards; the system does a good job protecting consumers from financial fraud. But medical information fraud is much more difficult to manage, and can cause severe, long lasting damage, such as ruined credit, legal troubles, and erroneous medical treatment if hackers mess with your records.
Ronnie Bogle, of San Jose, CA, discovered he was a victim of medical identity theft when he got his credit report after being rejected for a new credit card, according to NBC News. The report showed dozens of unpaid medical bills for treatments he had never received, in states he had never visited.
“I was horrified,” said Bogle. “It was literally pages and pages and pages upon pages and more pages of unpaid medical treatments, hospital visits, emergency care that I knew were not mine.”
The high profile cyberattacks of the past year were so egregious- especially since social security numbers may have been stolen- that the affected companies offered customers up to two years of free credit monitoring and identity theft protection services. Still, millions of people are at risk for the same credit-busting charges that Bogle experienced.
In our latest article, “Protect Yourself from Medical Identity Theft,” we explain medical identity theft and why it’s dangerous for both your financial life and physical health. Understand the risks and what you can do to protect yourself by reading our white paper.
Image courtesy of www.perspecsys.com.