Most coverage of the Anthem breach has provided conventional advice: Check your bank statements and credit cards, change your password, order your credit report, etc. That is all good advice, but it completely ignores the unique risks of medical identity theft and fraud.
Data breaches are differentiated by more than just size. The kind of information that's released matters as much -- if not more -- than the amount. Virtually all data breaches put consumers at risk for some version of identity theft, which can lead to bank account fraud, credit card fraud, tax fraud and other financial impacts. But only breaches involving medical identity information can truly put your life or health at risk.
In the Anthem breach, the compromised data included both health insurance identities and social security numbers, which means the major risk is medical identity theft. This can happen a number of different ways, but the two most common are: 1) someone uses your medical identity to obtain medical goods, services and prescriptions pretending to be you, or 2) a devious individual (often involved in organized crime) uses your medical identity to bill your insurance, Medicare or Medicaid for all kinds of medical goods, services and prescriptions without your knowledge.
The huge problem here is everything that is done by the fraudulent person goes on your personal medical record as if you did it.
The next time you go to a doctor or emergency room, they will pull up your electronic health record and most of the things on there are not you. Your preexisting conditions, your allergies, your drug interactions, possibly even your blood type may be wrong or conflicting. In the future, that could lead to a misdiagnosis based on a condition you don't have, a prescription mistake with a medication to which you're allergic, and other dangerous or inappropriate medical treatment.
It is not an exaggeration to say that medical identity fraud can literally kill you...
Read on at http://www.mercurynews.com/opinion/ci_27620896/anthem-breach-get-set-medical-identity-fraud
Meanwhile, we have a sincere message from an Anthem representative: