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What Do You Need to Know About Health Care Data Breaches?

Data breaches involving health care providers (labs, doctor offices, hospitals, clinics) and health insurance companies have been on the increase. For example, earlier this year, Anthem announced that they had been hacked and as many as 80 million customers had their account information stolen. Anthem, the nation’s second-largest health insurance company, announced customers of Amerigroup, Anthem and Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield, Caremore and Unicare may be affected as well as other independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in any of the areas that Anthem serves. AnthemFacts.com has more information.

In health care data breaches hackers can get any information you have provided about you and your family members to your health care providers such as names, birth dates, social security numbers, insurance number, Medicare numbers, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, and employment data. With this information, a thief can open up new credit lines, file false tax returns and get medical care. These thefts include children’s social security numbers which are very valuable to criminals since many children have no credit history or credit applications. If a child’s identity is stolen, it could be years before it is detected. The Identity Theft Resource Center has a Parent’s Guide for Child Identity Theft Indicators.

Along with health care data breaches, medical identity theft is a growing problem. Thieves can use stolen social security and insurance numbers to get treatment and prescriptions. A victim may end up with an inaccurate health record if the thief’s health records are mixed with theirs. In addition, a victim may be expected to pay the bills.

What can you do about medical identity theft? Always review your medical and insurance statements including the Explanation of Benefits and Medicare Summary Notice to see if they match the care you or your family member was provided. Medical Identity Theft from the FTC has more information on how to detect it and steps to take if you detect it.

If you have been notified that you were affected by a breach, take advantage of any free credit-monitoring services that are offered. In addition, since most credit monitoring services only put fraud alerts on your accounts with the three major credit bureaus, you may want to put a credit freeze on your accounts. A credit freeze will prevent any new credit applications from being initiated without your knowledge. The freeze doesn’t affect your existing lines of credit. Credit Freeze FAQs from the FTC has more information.