Cybercriminals are after more than just your wallet.
“The diverse threats we face are increasingly cyberbased. Much of America’s most sensitive data is stored on computers. We are losing data, money, and ideas through cyber intrusions. This threatens innovation and, as citizens, we are also increasingly vulnerable to losing our personal information.”-James Comey, Former Director of the FBI
When cybercriminals obtain your personal information and commit identity fraud, it can cost you more than just your lifestyle—it can truly cost you your life.
After a long day at work, you pull up to your home and you check the mail as you do every day. You take the mail inside and see an envelope that catches your eye. “Confidential” is written on the front of the crisp white envelope in big, bold, red ink. You open the letter thinking it could be something important from your job. To your shock, it’s a $44,000 hospital bill for a surgery.
However, you’ve never had surgery before. In fact, you’ve never even been hospitalized.
For Joe Ryan, a pilot and business owner, this was his reality. Ryan was a victim of medical identity theft. Medical identity theft is “when someone uses your personal information to collect money, prescription drugs, goods, or health services.”
It’s similar to other versions of identity theft in that it can cause severe financial damage to the victim, but this type of identity theft can also have unforeseen medical consequences. If your medical records are changed, this can cause your chart to include inaccurate medical history, diagnoses, or allergies.199 If someone changes your chart to no longer include that you’re allergic to codeine and you seek emergency medical care without knowing that has been changed, that can have serious consequences.
This is especially vital today when many health systems share data and records between many different hospitals, doctor’s offices, and clinics across the country. Therefore, if your medical information is tampered with at one healthcare facility this can have a cascading effect on your records beyond just that specific hospital or hospital system.
Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, estimates that up to 500,000 Americans may be victims. Dixon says, “Medical identity theft causes terrible harm, both financial and physical.”
After Ryan received the bill, he pursued an investigation into the case, and the investigation proved to be very revealing. It was uncovered that a previously convicted criminal had used Ryan’s Social Security number to check into the hospital and have his surgery. The excon got his procedure done without raising any red flags, and in the end, he successfully carried out his efforts to leave the real Ryan holding the bill.
When interviewed over two years later by WebMD, Ryan said, “I still can’t get my medical records straightened out.” According to WebMD, he says the event has emotionally scarred him.
Over the next several weeks, I’m going to be sharing excerpts and stories from my book, Cyber Curiosity: A Beginner’s Guide to Cybersecurity – How to Protect Yourself in the Modern World in this article series. Here is the link to get your copy on Amazon! The eBook is 0.99 cents only for the month of May, so get your digital copy today and start reading immediately.
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