Feature Article
Mark Pribish
FTC identifies healthcare sector as a growing risk to Seniors Identities
By Mark Pribish
Vice President and ID Theft Practice Leader

Earlier this month, I attended a May 7 Federal Trade Commission (FTC) hearing in Washington, D.C. that brought together experts from government, private industry, and public interest groups to discuss the unique challenges facing victims of senior identity theft.

The forum included panel discussions on different types of senior identity theft including:

  • Government Benefits ID Theft and Fraud
  • Long-Term Care ID Theft and Fraud
  • Medical ID Theft and Fraud
  • Senior/Assisted Living ID Theft and Fraud
  • Taxpayer ID Theft and Fraud

Based on the above, it was determined that supporting proactive consumer education and community outreach programs can help senior citizens (and their family members) better understand the increasing trend of senior identity theft.

Another recommendation was for organizations and industry groups, such as Healthcare and Senior Living, to implement formal best practices to support an enterprise risk management approach to safeguarding Personally Identifiable Information (PII) with an emphasis on employee education.

That said I have listed below some of the comments and observations that I heard on May 7th:

  1. As federal and state agencies move to deliver benefits through prepaid, reloadable debit cards, personal information may become more accessible.
  2. Medical care and insurance claims require people to share their personal information. It is an unfortunate reality that seniors, children of seniors and other care providers of seniors must take steps to protect the senior from identity theft.
  3. Older consumers often make the move to an assisted living facility or nursing home. Others opt for in-home care. Caregivers need to help those seniors with a diminished capacity to defend themselves against identity theft.
  4. Fraudsters are finding increasing value in targeting and selling medical information, as opposed to credit card and Social Security numbers.
  5. According to a Ponemon Institute study conducted last June (please see the study here), an average of two million Americans, many of them seniors, fall victim to medical ID theft each year, costing each person about $22,346, up from $20,663 in 2011.
  6. Health care providers are slower in identifying medical identity theft since multiple people use the same health insurance cards.
  7. The increase in healthcare data breaches has exacerbated identity theft concerns with valuable medical data vulnerable to theft. As cited above, the 2012 Ponemon Institute study found that 94 percent of healthcare organizations had at least one data breach in the past two years.

To conclude, seniors face unique risks as they are targeted by identity thieves and criminals looking for opportunity and access, as seniors tend to have more assets.

In addition, a large number of organizations and government agencies have access to the personal information of vulnerable seniors.

Finally, seniors typically do not report their victim experience as many are embarrassed of how their information was stolen. Often the perpetrators of identity theft are individuals close to the victim, such as a caregiver or family member.

Two ways seniors can protect themselves are to monitor their credit reports by obtaining a free credit report at www.AnnualCreditReport.com at least once a year and to place a credit freeze on their credit files.

Sincerely,
Mark

To learn more about these threats and how to protect yourself and your family from Identity Theft, you can read my past newsletters at the Merchants Identity Theft Educational Website at www.idtheftedu.com.



Scam Central

It Doesn't Pay to Pay for Free Money

Higher education is a goal to which many aspire. Even college graduates sometimes feel as if there is more they need to accomplish by getting a Master's degree, or even pursuing a Doctorate degree. However, the costs of these degrees are very high and personal finances quickly become a roadblock in the pursuit of an individual's dreams. What would really help is some free money, money you would not have to pay back, ever. Enter the government grant.

Just when you need it the most, you may receive an email, possibly a phone call, or perhaps read online or in the newspaper about a new government grant. The grant is a guaranteed amount of money for all who qualify. All you need to do is apply for it, and you will never have to pay any money back. While the government does give grants to qualified individuals, this particular grant is not a government grant at all, but rather a scam.

How It Works:

Obtaining the grant is simple enough. You need to fill out an application, providing information about yourself. Next, you need to provide your bank account information so the money may be deposited directly into your account. You may also be asked to pay a processing fee to cover the cost of transferring funds. After all of this is complete, you will get the money deposited directly into your account. But, don't hold your breath just yet. That money is never coming, and you have probably just lost whatever was in your bank account to scammers. Even worse, since you have also divulged your Personally Identifiable Information (PII), you are now vulnerable to becoming a victim of identity theft.

Your Defense:

Like all other scams, recognizing the scam is the first part of your defense. It should not cost you any money to apply for a federal grant. Any application asking for a processing fee up front is probably not a trustworthy one. For those who receive a phone call, do not trust the number that appears on your Caller ID. Scammers know how to use technology to make it appear that they are calling from a legitimate source in order to trick you into thinking they are for real. Do not fall for it! Hang up the phone and do not deal with them. And as always, never disclose your bank account information to someone you do not know.

While there are many legitimate organizations, including the government, that offer grants for education and even some other purposes, identifying these agencies can be tricky. Many of these agencies can be identified doing an online search, but weeding out which ones are real and not scammers may take some real investigating. Luckily, according to an article on the FTC's Consumer Information website, the best, reliable way to find a list of agencies that offer grants is at the public library. They will have a list of such agencies on hand and you can rest assured that you will be applying for a real grant, without having to spend a dime for it.

If you believe your identity has been stolen, call 866.SMART68 today.