With many people getting better at protecting their identities, and financial companies on the lookout for fraud, identity thieves are increasingly going after your medical information. According to the Medical Identity Theft Alliance, in 2014 medical ID theft rose 22%.
True, the actual number of people affected in 2014 was only 500,000. However, that's only a small number when compared to traditional identity theft, which averages 12 million a year. And, as I said, medical ID theft is growing fast.
It doesn't help that hackers used to high-security financial systems are finding hospital and insurance security almost laughably easy. Medical providers are still new at digital records and security, so it's understandable, though not forgivable, that they haven't got a handle on it.
Last year, for example, insurance company Anthem Inc. lost 80 million customer records in a massive breach. At the time, security experts criticized Anthem for not encrypting its records. That means hackers could just take the information and start using it right away with no hassle.
So you would hope that other health providers would have learned a valuable lesson. Unfortunately, it looks like they didn't.
UCLA Health Systems, one of the biggest hospitals in the country, announced that its systems were hacked. The hackers got into the server that houses 4.5 million patient records dating back to 1990.
The records include "names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, Medicare and health plan identification numbers as well as some medical information such as patient diagnoses and procedures." However, no credit card or financial information was in that area of the network.
While UCLA and the FBI don't know yet whether hackers stole any of those records, like the Anthem hack they weren't encrypted. If the hackers did steal them, you can expect the information to pop up on the black market very soon.
To add insult to injury, this wasn't a smash-and-grab hack. According to preliminary findings, the hack started in September 2014.
UCLA says it's spending "tens of millions" of dollars to upgrade its system, and the entire UC system is doing a security audit of its medical facilities. Still, think about all the hospitals and private practices around the country that don't have that much to spend on security.
One way to keep yourself safe is to know what information you do and don't need to give your doctor at your next appointment. You should also take a regular look at your medical bills to make sure there are no procedures and prescription drugs you don't know about.