GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The nation’s second largest health insurer, Anthem, is now scrambling to notify millions of customers who may be the victims of a massive data breach.
Hackers broke into the health insurance database storing information for about 80 million people. The hackers did gain access to names, birthdates, email address, employment details, Social Security numbers, incomes and street addresses of people who are currently covered or have had coverage in the past.
“Every one of us is vulnerable and every one of us has to be vigilant in protecting our identity from theft and protecting our credit ratings,” said Phil Catlett, the President and CEO of the Western Michigan Better Business Bureau.
Catlett said there are a few things customers can do now to help avoid more issues in the future.
“Probably the one thing you ought to do is put a fraud alert out there in a number of places, and if you put a freeze on your credit alert, anytime anybody is trying to get information by pretending to be you with your social security information, they won’t be able to get it,” said Catlett.
Catlett said to put out a fraud alert or place a security freeze, you have to contact one of the three credit reporting bureaus, which are Equifax, Experian or TransUnion online or by certified mail. A customer would then tell the bureau that you would like to put out a fraud alert and place a security freeze. The customer must provide identifying information including a social security number. The freeze will remain on your credit report until you request to remove it.
According to the Michigan.gov website, a security freeze is free to identity theft victims, but if you are not an identity theft victim, it will cost you $10 to place a freeze with the bureau.
A security freeze will impact a customer who is trying to take out a loan or buy items like furniture or a car.
“But if you are an Anthem customer, it might be worth that bit of difficulty to protect you from the other things that could be happening. There are already people attempting to commit fraud right now. They’re putting out huge emails saying they’re from Anthem and they’re giving you this free service to protect your credit and then they’re trying to loop you in. Don’t click on those links. If you want to find out what they are offering, go directly to Anthem’s website,” said Catlett.
Anthem said they will send notices through mail to impacted customers and will be providing a free credit monitoring service. The specifics of the program have not yet been released.