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The coronavirus is making a lasting impact on the United States in many different ways. More than 175,000 people have died from the coronavirus, and 57+ million Americans have filed for unemployment. Another noticeable impact is the dramatic increase in scams and identity theft. There have been more than 92,000 COVID-19 fraud reports and $118+ million lost from fraud, according to the Federal Trade Commission. A story published by the Washington Post reports that no event over the last decade has spawned as many schemes or lasted this long.

Since COVID-19 began seriously affecting the U.S. in March, fraudsters and scammers have been trying to take advantage of the situation to steal or misuse people’s personally identifiable information (PII) in any way possible to commit identity theft. Recently, scammers have been taking advantage of the medical space to commit financial identity theft from COVID-19, using many different methods.

Medicare and Medicaid Scams

There is some good news when it comes to COVID-19 scams. COVID-related phishing scams appear to be on the decline. According to CheckPoint, July saw a 50 percent decrease in COVID-19 scams compared to June. However, CheckPoint reported that COVID-19 medical and vaccine-related scams are still in high demand as the race is on to find a vaccine. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG) echoes a similar message. The HHS-OIG says scammers are offering tests to Medicare beneficiaries in exchange for PII, like Medicare and Medicaid information to commit financial identity theft.

The AMAC Foundation is so concerned about the current issue that they and Medicare.gov are sending a notice warning recipients of the scams. The HHS-OIG believes fraudsters are targeting recipients with telemarketing calls, text messages, social media messages and door-to-door visits in their effort to steal PII. PII can be used to bill Federal health care and commit financial identity theft fraudulently.

Insurance Scams

Insurance scams are another financial identity theft concern from COVID-19 with telemedicine being so widely available, as mentioned by the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud. The Coalition warns that costly insurance scams can exploit the burgeoning arms-length telemedicine. Tele-schemes can steal patients’ identities and defraud their insurance policies.

Medical Identity Theft Threat

While fraudsters are using the medical space to commit financial identity theft from COVID-19, there is also a risk of medical identity theft. According to a story published by CBS Dallas, hackers know more people are using the healthcare system, and they know they can take advantage of the situation.

If hackers get their hands on medical records, it could leave a lasting impact. The Senior Director of Threat Hunting and Intelligence at Binary Defense says someone who steals a victim’s identity can go as far as getting an expensive medical procedure done and charge it to the victim’s insurance account. The story suggests consumers give out the bare minimum amount of PII at medical appointments, ensure the provider’s online portals are secure, and ask providers to delete all of their medical records from the database once they are no longer a patient to help reduce their risk of falling victim to identity theft.

What You Can Do

Scammers are using Medicare and Medicaid scams, insurance scams, and a rise in people using the healthcare system to commit identity theft – particularly financial identity theft from COVID-19. However, there are still actions you can take to reduce your risk of falling victim to a COVID-19 scam or financial identity theft.

  • Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries should be cautious of any unsolicited requests for Medicare or Medicaid numbers
  • Keep an eye out for unexpected calls or messages that ask for PII. If someone receives a message with a link or an attachment, do not click or open anything. (NOTE: A physician or trusted health care provider will approve any COVID-19 tests or treatments.)
  • Anyone suspicious of COVID-19 healthcare fraud should report it online to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General or call 800.HHS.TIPS

If you are the victim of financial identity theft from COVID-19, or a COVID-19 scam, you can call the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free at 888.400.5530. You can also live-chat on our website to speak with an expert advisor.


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Another week has gone by, and in this week’s Weekly Breach Breakdown, the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) highlights a handful of data compromises that could leave a big impact on businesses and consumers. The ITRC has been tracking publicly-notified U.S. data breaches since 2005 to look for patterns, new trends and any information that could better help educate on the need for understanding the value of protecting personally identifiable information (PII). Some of the data compromises highlighted this week include CVS, Walgreens and Walmart pharmacy data breaches with a unique twist; an athlete recruiting tool; and one state’s taxpayer system. All of these breaches have one thing in common: they are relatively small data events that can still leave a lasting impact.

CVS, Walgreens and Walmart Pharmacy Data Breaches

Three well-known companies suffered from individual pharmacy data breaches. It wasn’t a cyberattack or failure to secure their electronic records; instead, some of their stored health information was physically stolen, leaving the potential for a serious impact on the individuals whose information was exposed. During recent protests in several cities, pharmacies owned by Walmart, Walgreens and CVS were looted. Paper files and computer equipment containing customer information was taken from individual stores, not the companies at-large. The missing information included prescriptions, consent forms, birth dates, addresses, medications and physician information. All three companies affected by the pharmacy data breaches notified impacted patients, but only CVS released the number of customers involved – 21,289.

Front Rush Data Compromise

The next data compromise includes student-athlete recruiting tool, Front Rush. Front Rush recently notified 61,000 athletes and coaches that their information was open to the internet due to a misconfigured cloud database for four years. In a notice to individuals impacted, Front Rush acknowledged that they could not tell if anyone accessed or removed any PII while it was exposed to the web from 2016-2020. Some of the personal information in the database included: Social Security numbers, Driver’s Licenses, student IDs, passports, financial accounts, credit card information, birth certificates and health insurance information.

The Vermont Department of Taxes Data Compromise

The state of Vermont recently notified more than 70,000 taxpayers that the online credentials they used to file certain types of tax forms had been exposed on the internet since 2017. State officials say they lacked the tools to tell if the information was downloaded from their systems by threat actors, but they believe the risk of an identity crime is low. However, the State Department of Taxes is recommending taxpayers take precautions like monitoring bank and credit accounts, reviewing credit reports and reporting any suspicious activity to local law enforcement.

What it Means

Stolen credentials like logins and passwords, like the information breached in Vermont, are currently the number one cause of data breaches, according to IBM. However, that is tied with misconfigured cloud security that leads to data being exposed to the web, as in Front Rush. Misconfigured cloud security generally means that someone forgot to set up a password or other security tool when they configured the database. Stolen physical records and devices ranks five out of ten on the attack scale for the most common attack vectors.

For more information about the latest data breaches, subscribe to the ITRC’s data breach newsletter.

NotifiedTM

Keep an eye out for the ITRC’s new data breach tracker NotifiedTM. It is updated daily and free to consumers. Businesses that need comprehensive breach information for business planning or due diligence can access as many as 90 data points through one of the ITRC’s three paid subscriptions. Subscriptions help ensure the ITRC’s free identity crime services stay free. Notified launches later this month.

If someone believes they are the victim of identity theft or their information has been compromised in a data breach, they can call the ITRC toll-free at 888.400.5530 to speak with an expert advisor. They can also use live-chat. Finally, victims of a data breach can download the free ID Theft Help app to access advisors, resources, a case log and much more. Join us on our weekly data breach podcast to get the latest perspectives on the last week in breaches. Subscribe to get it delivered on your preferred podcast platform.


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