Premera Blue Cross, a health insurer serving patients in Washington and Alaska, announced Tuesday it was the target of a cyberattack that accessed millions of customers’ personal, financial and medical information. An investigation reportedly discovered the attack began May 5, 2014.
According to its website, Premera Blue Cross serves 1.8 million people in the U.S., though multiple news reports say 11 million people may have been affected by the breach — not only members but also “employer customers, healthcare providers and other people and organizations with whom we do business,” a post on Premera’s website says. The information accessed in the cyberattack dates back to 2002 and includes names, birth dates, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, Social Security numbers, member identification numbers, bank account numbers and medical claims information, which may include clinical information.
Premera is offering people affected by the breach two years of free credit monitoring and identity theft protection services through Experian’s ProtectMyID. Credit monitoring can be a huge help in stopping fraud, but there are many things to watch out for if you’ve been caught up in a breach like this one.
1. Medical Data Accuracy
When an identity thief gets his or her hands on the sort of information accessed in the Premera breach, he or she has the details necessary to receive medical care in your name. Medical identity theft can put your health at risk if your medical information is tainted by fraudulent care, so ask your physician to review your history with you the next time you visit the office to ensure it’s accurate.
If you’re not already paying close attention to the explanation of benefits letters you receive from your insurer, now is a good time to start. Read these documents carefully to make sure no one is abusing your insurance benefits, potentially exhausting your coverage and leaving you without the medical help you may need later.
2. Tax Fraud
A Social Security number is the Holy Grail of personal information, and one of the most common abuses of exposed Social Security numbers is taxpayer identity theft: Thieves use the numbers to file false tax returns and get refund money.
If your Social Security number has been exposed, you’re at high risk of becoming an identity theft victim at any time in the future, because the Social Security Administration very rarely changes numbers. Even if you’ve already filed your taxes this year, someone with access to your number could file a fraudulent return next year, delaying a refund to which you may be entitled. Make it a goal to file your taxes as early as possible each tax season.
3. Unauthorized Accounts
A person with your personally identifiable information may be able to open credit in your name, unless you’ve initiated a credit freeze. If you take advantage of credit monitoring tools, you will be alerted every time someone has applied or received credit in your name, and if you weren’t the person who triggered those credit report inquiries, you’ll know someone has access to your data.
Pull your credit reports (you can get free annual credit reports) and regularly check your credit scores to look for unauthorized use of your identity. Fraudulent accounts can seriously damage your credit, and it can take a long time to reverse the damage, which is why you want to catch them as soon as you can. You can get two of your credit scores for free every month on Credit.com.
More on Identity Theft:
- Identity Theft: What You Need to Know
- How Can You Tell If Your Identity Has Been Stolen?
- What Should I Do If I’m a Victim of Identity Theft?