Health insurer Anthem is offering free credit monitoring after a major breach that may have affected as many as 80 million records, but customers should watch out for an especially insidious type of fraud: medical identity theft.
Anthem disclosed the hack late Wednesday, saying customer information that could have been compromised includes names, Social Security numbers, street addresses—and the medical ID numbers found on customers' health insurance cards.
Criminals can use those numbers at hospitals, emergency rooms and pharmacies to receive care and prescriptions, racking up charges and wrecking victims' medical records. (No health data or financial information was included in the breach, the company said.)
"It's like an unlimited credit card that gets you 'free' access to expensive services and drugs," said Bob Gregg, CEO of ID Experts, which provides breach-response services to major U.S. companies. "Everyone thinks about credit cards and bank accounts, but medical identity theft can be much more damaging and extremely hard to fix."