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Anthem Breach Highlights Limited Public Awareness of Medical ID Theft Risks

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.

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.

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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.

Hack Attack: Health insurer’s customer information stolen

Last week, hackers hit Anthem, the nation's second-largest health insurance company. As many as 80 million customers had their account information stolen. The pilfered data includes names, birth dates, medical IDs, Social Security numbers, street addresses, email addresses and employment information.Last week, hackers hit Anthem, the nation's second-largest health insurance company. As many as 80 million customers had their account information stolen. The pilfered data includes names, birth dates, medical IDs, Social Security numbers, street addresses, email addresses and employment information. If you’re worried about your personal information ending up in the wrong hands, the FTC has a helpful reminder. A credit freeze, also known as a security freeze, lets you limit access to your credit report, which makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. Our Credit Freeze FAQs can help you decide whether a credit freeze is right for you. One thing to remember: A credit freeze doesn’t prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts. Even if you elect a credit freeze you still need to monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts for charges you don’t recognize. If you decide you don’t want to get a credit freeze, you can still place a fraud alert. It lasts 90 days — you can renew it — and makes it tougher for thieves to open new accounts. It’s also a good idea to review your credit report periodically.Federal law allows you to get a free copy every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit bureaus. Visit annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228. Accounts on your credit report that you don’t recognize could indicate identity theft. Anthem has established a website where members can access information about its data breach. In addition, the FTC can help you learn more about securing your privacy and identity. _______________ The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the nation’s consumer protection agency. The FTC works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace.

Healthcare Signup Made Easy

Smart shoppers know it pays to shop around -- especially when it comes to health insurance. And with the February 15 deadline rapidly approaching for the Affordable Care Act plans, this is a project you can't postpone.Somewhat off-topic for our blog, but important information for our readers.
Smart shoppers know it pays to shop around -- especially when it comes to health insurance. And with the February 15 deadline rapidly approaching for the Affordable Care Act plans, this is a project you can't postpone. The federal government says that last year more than 7 million people enrolled, despite glitches in the process. This year it appears to be going smoothly so far -- but many will wait until the last minute to shop -- or re-shop -- for health insurance. Don't get caught in the crunch. Where to Shop There may be more -- and better -- choices than you know. Most people are by now aware of the federal Healthcare.gov website, which provides information about how much the government will subsidize your premium, based on your income last year and your estimate of 2015 income. There are also more than a dozen state sites, which let you search among plans in your state of residence. But did you know that you can shop online at private insurance exchanges that offer the same policies, more choices and more services, such as searching and signing up on your mobile device -- or individualized personal help to guide you through the choices at their websites? Most people aren't aware that they can shop outside the Healthcare.gov website -- at no additional cost or fee, whether they are shopping for a subsidized policy or simply a policy that is health reform-compliant in the bronze, silver, gold, platinum and catastrophic categories. In fact, insurance buyers may benefit by having a far greater choice of nonsubsidized policies. For example, eHealthInsurance.com says it can help consumers choose from a total of 6,429 plans -- including more than 1,900 plans not available for the 33 states that use Healthcare.gov. Since approximately 13 percent of people who purchased a plan at Healthcare.gov last year did not qualify for a subsidy, it's easy to assume that they might have had a better and wider choice elsewhere. Private insurance marketplaces like eHealthInsurance.com and GoHealth.com are compensated by the insurers, just as the government exchanges are, so there is no difference in price to the consumer. How to Choose It's easy to get frozen at the very start. How can you find out if you qualify for a federal subsidy to reduce your premiums? What features should you compare? Answers to those important questions could mean a difference of hundreds of dollars a month in your premium payments -- or thousands of dollars in deductibles and other costs should you need to use your insurance for a major illness or accident. Step 1: Figure out whether you are qualified, based on expected income in 2015, for a federal subsidy for your monthly insurance premium. This will require some careful estimation because if you ultimately earn more than you project on your application, the government will require partial repayment of the subsidy at the end of the year. You can get an immediate estimate of your subsidy at both federal and private marketplaces. At eHealthInsurance.com, you need to input your zip code, gender, birth date, number of dependents on your tax return, and an estimate of your modified adjusted gross income (taxable income) for the current year. Instantly, you'll be given an estimate of the monthly or annual dollar amount of your subsidy. Applying for the subsidy takes as little as five minutes. The next step is the policy selection process. Step 2: The most obvious basis on which to compare policies is price -- the monthly premium (with or without a subsidy). But there are other components to this decision, including: deductibles, copays, cost of doctor visits, out-of-pocket maximums, and prescription drug coverage. The online tool at eHealthInsurance.com lets you compare up to four policies side-by-side to find out the best value. And their search tool lets you enter a physician's name to see if your doc accepts the policy you are about to choose. Making Application The one benefit of the Affordable Care Act is that it has categorized policies and coverages, thus making it easier to compare and shop online, either at the federal site or private exchanges. In fact, at eHealthInsurance.com you can manage the entire process -- including applying for the subsidy and searching and applying for a policy -- using your iPhone or Android app while riding the bus to work! Or you can use their toll-free number to talk to an expert. So start now and you'll easily find the best policy for you -- before the February 15 deadline. That's the Savage Truth. _______________________ Terry Savage is a nationally recognized expert on personal finance, the economy and the markets. She writes a syndicated personal finance column, and blogs weekly on the Huffington Post. Terry is seen frequently as a money expert on CNN, and also has appeared on CNBC, Fox Business News, CBS and PBS. Terry’s latest book is a new edition of her best-seller, The Savage Truth on Money.
 

Hack Attack: Health insurer’s customer information stolen

Last week, hackers hit Anthem, the nation's second-largest health insurance company. As many as 80 million customers had their account information stolen. The pilfered data includes names, birth dates, medical IDs, Social Security numbers, street addresses, email addresses and employment information.Last week, hackers hit Anthem, the nation's second-largest health insurance company. As many as 80 million customers had their account information stolen. The pilfered data includes names, birth dates, medical IDs, Social Security numbers, street addresses, email addresses and employment information. If you’re worried about your personal information ending up in the wrong hands, the FTC has a helpful reminder. A credit freeze, also known as a security freeze, lets you limit access to your credit report, which makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. Our Credit Freeze FAQs can help you decide whether a credit freeze is right for you. One thing to remember: A credit freeze doesn’t prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts. Even if you elect a credit freeze you still need to monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts for charges you don’t recognize. If you decide you don’t want to get a credit freeze, you can still place a fraud alert. It lasts 90 days — you can renew it — and makes it tougher for thieves to open new accounts. It’s also a good idea to review your credit report periodically.Federal law allows you to get a free copy every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit bureaus. Visit annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228. Accounts on your credit report that you don’t recognize could indicate identity theft. Anthem has established a website where members can access information about its data breach. In addition, the FTC can help you learn more about securing your privacy and identity. _________________ The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the nation’s consumer protection agency. The FTC works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace.