Millions of people are still dealing with the massive Equifax data breach. Nearly 143 million Americans were impacted by the breach, which means you're most likely part of it. Click here to learn how to find out if your personal data was exposed.
The fallout is so bad, the Federal Trade Commission is warning everyone to watch out for scams associated with the breach. Phone scams, phishing emails and text messages, along with fraudulent social media posts claiming to be from Equifax representatives are all making the rounds. Now, there's another after effect you need to know about that could seriously damage your finances.
How cybercriminals could rack up medical bills in your name
You know how expensive medical care can be these days. Now imagine if you had to pay for someone else's surgery on top of your own bills. That's exactly what's happening in the aftermath of the Equifax data breach.
With the typical data breach, stolen data is typically limited to usernames, passwords and sometimes credit card information. Those can be easily replaced with stronger passwords and new credit cards. The Equifax breach is on another level.
Victims had their Social Security numbers, home addresses, dates of birth, and some drivers license numbers exposed. That means criminals with access to the stolen data can completely steal a victim's identity and open accounts in their name. Since Social Security numbers never expire, victims could be battling these problems for years to come.
Identity thieves can use information stolen from Equifax to cause all kinds of havoc. They can apply for credit in the victim's name, open bank accounts, and even file taxes under your name to steal your refund.
That's why it's essential for you to set up a credit freeze if you know that your information was stolen. Click here to learn how to set up a credit freeze.
Another thing criminals can do with your stolen data is access your existing medical files. The thief can purchase medications, medical equipment, or even have surgery and have it all billed to your medical insurance.
Unfortunately, a credit freeze wouldn't stop this type of identity theft. A credit monitoring service won't be able to spot it either.
What you need to do now
The most important thing that you must do from now on is closely read everything you receive from your insurance company. Most people get statements in the mail regularly that read, "This is not a bill," across the top of the paper. Since it begins with that statement, many people just toss them in the trash without giving it a good look.
If there is fraudulent activity with your medical insurance, you need to know about it and report it immediately. Watch for charges for services that you didn't receive or purchases of medical equipment that you didn't order. If it's not just a simple reporting error, you're probably the victim of identity theft.
Another step that you should take is to open your personal my Social Security account online. The Social Security Administration (SSA) is advising everyone to open one to keep criminals from opening one in your name. Click here to learn how to open an account ASAP.
These simple steps could save you from falling victim to identity theft. As they say, it's always better to be safe than sorry.