While social security numbers can be sold for nothing, medical records hold much more value.
Medical records sold on the black market are of greater value than an individual’s social security number. According to a federal database, an estimated 167,917,235 people in the United States have been affected by medical data breaches since late 2009, reportedWSBTV Channel 2in Atlanta, GA.
Back in September, the computer servers of the Atlanta-based Peachtree Orthopedic facility were hacked, exposing medical information of hundreds of patients.
The hacker, who goes by the name The Dark Overlord, has a history of stealing health data, according toChannel 2. The Dark Overlord’s approach is to hold the data for ransom, but if the medical facility does not pay, the data goes up for sale on the dark web.
“These websites are user-friendly, like Amazon or eBay,” said Steven Grimberg, of the Department of Justice, as reported byChannel 2. “You can go on there and take your pick as to what kind of information you want.”
Former FBI Analyst Willis McDonald toldChannel 2that a cyber-criminal would need only 5 to 10 seconds before locating stolen patient medical records for sale. Even more concerning is that more experienced criminals may buy this information to carry out long-term fraudulent activity for health care fraud,Channel 2reports.
They may even set up ‘ghost clinics’ filing fake claims with private insurance companies and Medicare. Although improvements have been made in finding these hackers, it’s still an incredibly challenging task, with only a small window of time for federal prosecutors to identify the hackers and reel them in before they disappear.
Another challenge is the system insurance companies currently use referred to as the “pay-and-chase system,” where insurance companies quickly pay claims, making it difficult to identify fraud until after the fact, reportedChannel 2.
To avoid strangers stealing your medical records, McDonald advises individuals to closely monitor their accounts and credit.
“The best thing that you can do is monitor your accounts, monitor your credit history, monitor your bank accounts, and know what’s going on,” McDonald toldChannel2. “Because it’s almost safer to assume that way that your information has already been stolen.”