We’re living in digital times, but some things never change — such as the interest criminals have in making some easy money. Efficient criminals no longer rob banks – too many things that could go wrong for an unknown payout. Instead, they turn to the endless supply of opportunities available online.
While that includes the obvious places – online banking and your online credit card account – some lesser known places are increasingly at risk. One of those places is the electronic health record.
Electronic health records at risk
Why would criminals target electronic health record systems? Because these records are chock full of the kinds of personally identifiable information that can be used for identity theft. Dates of birth, social security numbers, addresses, and other demographic information is all that’s needed for a criminal to open up new lines of credit and get cash advances in your name.
That same data can also be used for other kinds of fraud, too. Criminals use that data to claim bogus tax refunds before a person has filed their legitimate tax returns. They can also use it to purchase medical devices and services, prescription medications, and certain Medicaid or Medicare benefits. The list of possible uses of this kind of data is limited only by the criminals’ imagination.
No matter whether you use a small electronic healthcare records service or one of the top brand names, everyone is at risk. Criminals can infiltrate virtually any system because of software vulnerabilities and weak passwords that are not nearly as rare as they should be.
What can you do to protect yourself? The usual precautions can help. Choose a long, difficult password for the service you do use, and change it once every year or two. (Yes, you can write the password down in order to remember it, as long as you keep it in a safe, secure place – not on your computer). Log in regularly to ensure there’s no suspicious activity you don’t recognize in your account. And check with your service provider to ensure they are keeping their systems updated, patched against security vulnerabilities, and force the use of strong passwords for all users of their system.
Enjoy your summer in New England!