Medical Identity Theft

Medicare is replacing its old cards with new ones which contain an 11-digit code instead of a Social Security number. Unfortunately, even though the cards have not yet been fully issued, scammers are taking advantage of this change.

A caller pretending to be a Medicare representative will ask for payment in exchange for the new ID. Alternatively, the caller might claim to need the victim’s medical information to send out their new card. In reality, the cards are free and will be mailed automatically.

In another variation, a caller will wrongly insist that the victim must purchase Medicare’s prescription drug coverage or risk losing all coverage.

In another ruse not limited to Medicare members, the caller asks for the victim’s checking account number and Social Security number to deposit a supposed refund from their insurer.

Once the scammer has the victim’s medical information, though, they can:

  • Pose as the victim to see a doctor
  • Obtain prescriptions
  • File a false health claim

Don’t be the next victim!

Here’s what you need to know about medical identity theft.

The cost 

The average medical identity theft costs $13,500 to fix, but can affect other areas of life and home, such as:

1.) Loss of health coverage

Scammers might max out your benefit limits, leaving you with no coverage.

2.) Ruined credit history

Scammers can destroy your credit history by racking up hospital bills in your name and then disappearing.

3.) False medical records

When the scammer receives treatment in your name, it’s documented on your medical records. This can be extremely dangerous when you seek medical attention in the future.

4.) Higher premiums

The scammer’s medical activity may cause your premiums to rise.

Preventing medical scams 

Take proactive steps to ensure you’re not the next victim.

  • Know that Medicare will never call you. They always contact members via mail.
  • Be wary of suspicious-looking bills from third-party providers. If you receive any, alert your insurer immediately.
  • Study your Explanation of Benefits (EOB). If you spot treatments you don’t remember receiving, notify your provider.
  • Check your medical records regularly for suspicious doctor visits, prescriptions or maladies.
  • Review your credit history often. If you see unfamiliar charges, immediately ask for a fraud alert and place a freeze on your credit.

Fixing your medical history 

If you spot an error on your medical records, it’s crucial that you correct it so it doesn’t affect your medical treatment in the future. Send a copy of the documents detailing the discrepancy to every medical professional and facility involved in your care.

Fighting back 

If you’ve been victimized by medical identity theft, be sure to report it!

Alert the FTC using their website at ftc.gov, or at 1-877-438-4338.

If you are a member of Medicare, call 800-MEDICARE or visit Medicare.gov. Alternately, report the scam to your own insurance provider.

Now that we’ve given you red flags to look for, you’re armed with information to keep your medical identity safe. Be sure to check out the Security Center of our website. It offers a variety of valuable materials regarding information security. Check back often as content is updated regularly.

What Happened With Security At Intel?

Early this month, two security flaws were found in the architecture of chips designed by Intel. This potential breach may affect thousands of devices. Here’s what you need to know about the vulnerabilities.

The two flaws: Meltdown and Spectre
Meltdown is considered the less significant threat and has already been patched in many computers.

The Spectre vulnerability, on the other hand, is more problematic. It involves the foundation of the chips that form the computer’s infrastructure. This means it is likely that the problem can only be fixed by redesigning and replacing affected devices. It also impacts an allegedly secure area of the chip architecture, where information like passwords and encryption keys are stored. If exploited, it can grant hackers unchecked access to this information.
Since the two flaws represent problems in the hardware of the product, and not in the software, they are more difficult to patch. This also means the number of affected devices is astronomical and includes operating systems like Windows, Android, macOS and more.

Can the flaws be fixed?
As mentioned, the Meltdown vulnerability can be amended with a patch. While the patch resolves the vulnerability, it slows down computer systems by a full 30%. Despite this drawback, Intel urges all consumers to use the patch.
Spectre, though, has no known fix. Many experts claim that redesigning computers may not even resolve the flaw, as there is currently no known solution for the problem. It can be many years before computers and chips include fixes for the Spectre flaw.

Have the flaws been exploited?
Fortunately, there have been no known exploits of the flaws thus far.

How has Intel responded to the flaws?
Security researchers have actually known about the flaws for months – and have been working to patch them during that time. In fact, most consumer systems are already patched against Meltdown.

Intel has also made several statements in response to the discovery, though it hasn’t addressed the problem of Spectre and the potential need for a massive redesign of its product.

“Check with your operating system vendor or system manufacturer and apply any available updates as soon as they are available,” Intel said.

Intel claims that Spectre and Meltdown patches will be coming to 90% of the company’s affected chips.

Is Intel the only company that has been affected by the discovery?
While Meltdown mostly impacted Intel chips, Spectre has affected other chips, including AMD and ARM processors and IBM’s Power chips.

Fingers continue to point at Intel. The company clearly knew about the problem for a while and failed to let the public know. Critics also claim Intel has not responded to pointed questions about Spectre.

What do I need to do now?
Be sure to apply any updates as they reach the market and keep your antivirus software updated and operating at its strongest level.