Kids Get Hurt by Anthem Security Breach
When hackers broke into systems of Anthem, a major health insurance company, earlier this month in a "very sophisticated" cyberattack, an estimated 80 million people suddenly became victims. The compromised information included names, birthdates, email address, employment details, Social Security numbers, incomes and street addresses, as The Associated Press reported.
Over the weeks, the implications of the action have continued to grow. As "Today" noted, the victims include tens of millions of children who are listed on their parents' insurance, putting the young people at a real risk of identity theft.
%VIRTUAL-pullquote-Criminals will use those stolen Social Security numbers to open accounts, get medical treatment, commit tax fraud, you name it.%"Criminals will use those stolen Social Security numbers to open accounts, get medical treatment, commit tax fraud, you name it," said Adam Levin, chairman and founder of IDentityTheft 911, to Today. Another expert was unaware of any other breach of this much personal data in history.
Children are at particular risk of identity theft because their information is more valuable to criminals. Because there is no history and typically no previous credit applications, it is far easier to fraudulently create identities. The criminals, who will likely have purchased the information from the original hackers, can use the identities whole or take the critical Social Security numbers and match them with other names and addresses, creating synthetic identities.
Because children have typically not yet applied for credit, there is no organic way for them or their parents to recognize that something wrong is happening. Particularly with synthetic identities, the families are unlikely to receive any notification that the Social Security numbers have been used. It can take years for the damage to come to light, usually when the victim comes of age, tries to apply for credit, and is turned down because of defaulted payments of the criminals.
In addition, medical identity theft is a burgeoning problem. Criminals use not only a Social Security number, but insurance numbers to gain treatment and leave the victim saddled with the bills and a health record that is no longer accurate because of the other person's information is now included. People may find care providers contacting them for payment of services provided, see a reduction of allowable benefits that were "used," and even receive incorrect medical diagnoses because of the unrelated information now included in the medical record.
The Identity Theft Resource Center offers a list of red flags that someone may have compromised the identity of their children. They include:
- Collection agency calls or letters for the children.
- Pre-approved credit card offers if the children never had bank accounts.
- Notice to your child of a traffic violation warrant or notification of overdue taxes.
- Denial of government benefits because the Social Security number is listed as having already received them.
- Notification from the IRS that a dependent's name or Social Security number already appears on someone else's tax form.
Because it can take so long for identity theft to become obvious, you'll need to monitor the credit accords of a child for the foreseeable future. Consider putting a security freeze on the credit records at all three agencies so no one can apply for credit under the Social Security number without alerting someone. And keep watching the mail for bills, notifications, or anything else out of place addressed to the children.