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Identity theft is a big deal -- and it's too late to stop it

Had your identity stolen lately? Oh well, you probably did. A few months ago, California’s Anthem Blue Cross admitted that someone had stolen 80 million health records, complete with name, address, SS # and more. A certain amount of self-congratulation can be found in its letter to the 80+ million: "The information accessed may have included names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, health care ID numbers, home addresses, email addresses, employment information, including income data. We have no reason to believe credit card or banking information was compromised." What a relief. But with the ‘minimal’ data stolen, the thieves got busy and filed for tax refunds from the IRS, which helpfully encourages direct deposit of the refund. TurboTax halted its electronic filing process recently due to likely fraudulent filing. And the IRS, which admits to weak fraud detection tools, will issue refunds as a result of this travesty.  

Ah, you say with relief, all is okay, Anthem is not my insurance company.  Big deal. It turns out that the BCBS companies like to do data exchanges if you travel into an Anthem state.  Oops California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri.  And you only have to hand over your Blue Cross card in one of those states within the last 10 years to be a sitting duck in the system that was hacked. So 80 million may really be all 105 million BCBS ‘subscribers.’  But if this identity theft hasn’t happened yet to any adults or children who have social security numbers – relax, right?  Nope.  These numbers can be held for years and used at any time to obtain credit cards, tax refunds, loans, or whatever. After years of publicity about risk, realizing that identity theft might be a problem for seniors, Congress just last week (!) finalized a bill to take the Social Security number off the Medicare card for its 50 million beneficiaries

2015 may be remembered as the year in which the bad guys won the tech war.  Skimming an ATM or credit card at point of transaction has become a professional criminal industry.  We got the convenience we wanted – no cash required. It was a good few years, wasn’t it?  So armed with our insurance cards and our debit and credit cards, not to mention our online use of those card numbers, we were secure in the knowledge that we could go anywhere, visit an ER or pharmacy nationwide, buy on impulse in a super market, shop anywhere and all was okay. To our knowledge. Actually, though, all of that was an irresistible business opportunity for someone else. And that free offer of identity protection from Anthem?  And the opportunity to see if your data was breached by giving a telephone rep your social security number? Wow, that sounds safe. Scroll down that Anthem Facts (!) link all the way to the bottom. Now read it and weep.

Health tech innovators have no interest in this problem. The Anthem theft (no hack, they just took the data) and card skimming is unsophisticated.  And really quite IT-like, traditional and dull.  So what are innovators doing? Look at the portfolios of Startup Health or Rock Health. Study the list of 30 underrated health startups – or the Health50 list of finalists. Is there money to be made in health information identity protection? Imagine the chip-and-pin, SafePass, or token-based health insurance or Medicare ID.  Now that the chickens have left, who will help close the gate on the loss of our most valuable health information – our identity?

Comments

I'm writing in about True Link... sophisticated prepaid debit cards... love the company and the team... (www.truelink.com) They help with financial fraud.

Here is the TrueLink Report On Elder Financial Abuse which details the enormity of financial fraud/scams perpetrated on older adults. And agree, the TrueLink card would be useful in protecting seniors.

However, the theft of information from Anthem was not listed as one of the fraud/scams in the report a) because it hadn't happened yet and b) it is not a financial fraud perpetrated on an individual. It is criminal theft of identifying data (including income), perpetrated on a class (members of Anthem and all of the Blue Cross companies) -- and class action responses are beginning.  Sadly, the TrueLink card would not have been helpful as long as there is a social security number, name and address in a database poorly protected by a company that subscribers, naturally, trusted.

 

 

Laurie:
Good article. I have Anthem. And just this week I had to give MetLife my SSN for my dental insurance (Thank you for pointing out that even the government has wised up to what a bad practice that is). In addition to that I am trying to create a web site and have to fight 'bots.' Cyber security professionals now estimate that 35-40% of all clicks on web sites are not human. They are crooks stealing even more identity information. You are right to sound the alarm. I have told people that we will look back on the early years of this century as the golden age of the internet, when you could use digital innovations with only a mild concern for criminal activity. No more!
John McMennamin

The latest was the Federal Government employee database (June 15).

Since July 14, at least seventeen high profile data breaches have been documented and cybersecurity stocks are hot.

Anthem theft, card skimming, internet breaches, and many other unsophisticated and sophisticated methods of identity theft has become concerning to the public and more so parents now with little children after the breach with Vtech. There's some great websites that outline this in more detail and help the public make a change together to prevent further identity theft protection and best identity theft protection services.