More than 600,000 Medicare beneficiaries are being advised to monitor their credit reports and activity after a May breach of a contractor’s network. The detailed personal information includes not only names, addresses and medical histories but also Social Security numbers, birth dates, contact information, Medicare beneficiary identifiers and health insurance claim numbers, as well as driver’s license numbers and state identification information and prescription information. Here’s what you need to know.
Consider working with a financial advisor to help ensure that your financial data and documents are as secure as possible.
How the Medicare Data Breach Happened
The breach occurred sometime in May when hackers exploited a security vulnerability in MOVEit software, a third-party application used by a Medicare contractor, Maximus Federal Services Inc., to transfer files used in Medicare appeals. Maximus informed the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services of the breach in early June. Medicare responded by sending letters to notify beneficiaries with exposed information at the end of July.
Healthcare data can be valuable to hackers who resell the information, which can be used to open fraudulent credit lines, breach existing financial and credit accounts or used to fraudulently obtain medical services. Medical data can be sold for as much as $1,000 per file, according to a November report released by the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee.
“In 2021, cybersecurity attacks on health care providers reached an all-time high,” the Senate report said, “with one study indicating that more than 45 million people were affected by such attacks in 2021 – a 32% increase over 2020.”
In February, Banner Health Affiliated Covered Entities paid a $1.25 million fine to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to settle security violations involved in a 2016 breach that involved the personal medical information of 2.81 million consumers.
How to Protect Yourself
Anyone involved in the Medicare breach has several options to protect their credit and data:
- Maximus is offering 24 months of free credit monitoring from the Experian credit bureau so that victims can be on the lookout for fraudulent activity in their accounts.
- Medicare also is encouraging victims to obtain free credit reports from the three major national credit bureaus. Consumer laws allow anyone to obtain a free credit report from each one of the bureaus once ever 12 months at not cost. Those reports can be obtained by calling 1-877-322-8228 or online at www.annualcreditreport.com. (Don’t be fooled by the many look-alike websites that charge for reports.)
- Report any suspicious activity to your local law enforcement agency and file a report with the Federal Trade Commission online at www.ftc.gov/idtheft, by phone at 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338) or by mail at Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Response Center, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580. Print or obtain a copy of the ID Theft affidavit to file with your local law agency.
- Continue to use your Medicare card. If your Medicare ID number was involved, the agency will send a new card to you. Follow the instructions with the new card, destroy the old card and update your number with your medical providers.
- Victims also can call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) with any questions about the Medicare program.
A breach of Medicare data in May has potentially affected hundreds of thousands of Medicare beneficiaries. As a result it’s important for these beneficiaries to get free credit monitoring, check their credit reports and report suspicious activity.
Tips on Medicare and Medicaid
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- Check out our free guide to healthcare insurance for retirees.
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