Home > 2015 > Identity Theft

Anthem Customers Exposed: What It Means for You

Advertiser Disclosure Comments 0 Comments

The nation’s second-largest health insurer has suffered a cyberattack that might become the largest hacking headache ever for American consumers.

Anthem Inc. announced Wednesday that computer criminals had infiltrated its systems and stolen a treasure trove of personal information. While the firm says no medical data or credit card information was targeted or stolen, hackers made off with names, birth dates, medical IDs/Social Security numbers, street addresses, email addresses and employment information, including income data. This highly personal information can be used for far more serious identity crimes than simple credit card fraud. Criminals with a birth date and SSN can commit full-blown identity theft, creating new accounts in a victim’s name. Employment and salary information could even be used to bypass security measures, or in a worst-case scenario, be used to reset passwords.

“I want to personally apologize to each of you for what has happened, as I know you expect us to protect your information,” wrote CEO Joseph Swedish in an email sent to some consumers and viewed by Credit.com. He said the stolen data included employee information — even his own. “We join you in your concern and frustration, and I assure you that we are working around the clock to do everything we can to further secure your data.”

Anthem said it did not know how many of its customers were impacted by the heist, but the number could be staggering. On its website, Anthem says it serves 69 million people, with more than 37 million enrolled in its family of health plans. But the hack also involves former customers, so its impact could be even larger. Impacted brands include Anthem Blue Cross, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Amerigroup, Caremore, Unicare, Healthlink and DeCare.

Last year, the FBI issued a generic warning that healthcare providers would soon be the target of cybercriminals.

“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 agency said in a warning obtained last April by Reuters.

Anthem says it will notify impacted consumers in writing within “weeks” and offer them free credit monitoring and identity theft protection services.

What You Can Do

Consumers might not want to wait for that, however. Anthem customers can immediately place a 90-day temporary fraud alert on their credit reports at all three bureaus, which should make it difficult for hackers to open new accounts using their personal information. Consumers can consider placing a credit freeze on their reports, too.

As with any data leak, the Anthem incident is another reminder to monitor your accounts carefully at least once each month to make sure nothing unusual has occurred. The Anthem breach creates a bigger challenge for consumers than the garden-variety credit card hack, however. The data that’s been stolen can’t be canceled or reissued like a credit card account, and the damage criminals can do is not limited to existing bank accounts. Consumers should be vigilant across their digital footprint: watch for unexpected activity in a 401(k) account or other brokerage account, for example.

The most serious frauds will occur if the data is used to open new accounts, however. That’s why it’ll be crucial for all Anthem consumers to monitor their credit reports for new accounts — not only today, but next week, next month, next year — and sadly, forever. For these victims, it will not be an issue of preventing identity theft, but rather detecting it quickly and taking steps to recover from it as soon as possible. Credit monitoring services – and there are a variety of paid and free services out there — can be helpful in discovering new accounts. You can also get a free credit report summary on Credit.com every month to keep an eye on your credit report activity – any suspicious changes should prompt you to pull your free annual credit reports and address any problems immediately.

More on Identity Theft:

Image: iStock

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other articles on Credit.com News & Advice may also be offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards or products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Our Owners

Credit.com is owned by Progrexion Holdings Inc. which is the owner and administrator of a number of business related to credit and credit repair, including CreditRepair.com, and eFolks. In addition, Progrexion also provides services to Lexington Law Firm as a third party provider. Despite being owned by Progrexion, it is not the role of the Credit.com editorial team to advocate the use of the company’s other services. In articles, reporters may mention credit repair as an option, for example, but we’ll also be sure to note the various alternatives to that service. Furthermore, you may see ads for credit repair services on Credit.com, but the editorial team isn’t responsible for the creation or implementation of those ads, anymore than reporters for the New York Times or Washington Post are responsible for the ads on their sites.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team