- Category: News
- Published: Tuesday, 17 February 2015 07:06
- Hits: 6397
Greetings all. I know I have raved on about this before but the massive data breach recently announced by Anthem Inc., the second largest U.S. health insurer, provides yet another perfect example of the limited understanding by media and many “experts” of the full spectrum of risks resulting from data breaches in healthcare organizations. While breaches like this one at Anthem do put consumers at risk of financial identity theft, it is the threat of medical identity theft and fraud that is more serious and less well understood.
In the eyes of most people, every data breach puts consumers at risk for identity theft, which leads to bank account fraud, credit card fraud, and tax fraud –all things financial. As an example, Forbes coverage of the Anthem breach (6 Ways to Protect Yourself after the Anthem Data Breach, February 5, 2015) provides conventional advice, the same treadmill of check your bank statements, check you credit cards, change your password, order your credit report. That is all good, albeit generic, advice but it completely ignores the risks of medical identity theft and fraud.
Because the compromised data included both health insurance identities as well as social security numbers, the major risk here is medical identity theft. This can happen a number of different ways but the two most common are 1) someone uses your medical identity to obtain medical goods, services and prescriptions pretending to be you or 2) a devious individual (often organized crime) uses your medical identity to bill your insurance, Medicare or Medicaid for all kinds of medical goods, services and prescriptions without your knowledge. The huge problem here is everything that is done by the fraudulent person goes on your personal medical record as if you did it!
Suddenly the next time you go to a doctor or emergency room they will pull up your record (which is now an electronic health record) and most of the things on there are not you. Your pre-existing conditions, your allergies, your drug interactions, possibly even your blood type may have changed. Medical identity fraud can literally kill you. So pardon my frustration when 90% of the major media outlets never even mention that. Two days after the breach I was watching CNN interview two “experts” on the breach and they both agreed that “one year of credit monitoring is simply inadequate.” I think “Finally, somebody gets it!” Until they announce that what is needed is five years of credit monitoring. Have you ever felt like you are yelling “FIRE” in a theater and nobody can hear you?
Is that possibly because medical identity theft isn’t as prevalent as I think? As it turns out, to the contrary, medical identity theft is the fastest growing identity crime in the country affecting over 1.8 million Americans according to the 2013 Ponemon Study on the subject.
But all is not lost, some of the media coverage on the Anthem breach is starting to dig into the risks of medical identity theft. NBC News has taken a broader view of the risks inherent in the Anthem breach in their coverage. Their article (Anthem Hack: Credit Monitoring Won’t Catch Medical Identity Theft, February 5, 2015) actually talks about the problem and points out correctly that credit monitoring is largely useless to protect consumers from medical identity theft. They point out many of the risks and give some advice on how to detect if you may have a problem.
One last note…if you care about the serious topic of medical identity theft, there is a recently created non-profit organization called the Medical Identity Fraud Alliance (MIFA) that has a mission to educate consumers (and the media) of this growing problem. As big as it is, pretty much everyone agrees the Anthem breach will be just one of many healthcare breaches in the coming months and years and now is the time to start arming consumers with a way to fight back.
________________Robert Gregg, CEO of ID Experts, and a CPA by trade, has an extensive career as an executive. As CEO of ID Experts, he is committed to protect consumers from identity theft resulting from privacy data breaches, particularly in healthcare. ID Experts provides the absolute best hands on service to prevent and remediate data breaches, and take great care of the victims of a breach.