Attorney General Martha Coakley Offers Guidance to Consumers Affected by the South Shore Hospital Data Breach
South Shore Hospital has posted information about this matter on its website at www.southshorehospital.org and this information is available through a special automated toll-free Information Line at (877) 309-0176.
In light of this news, Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office offers consumers the following information on how to protect their health records, credit and financial information against identity theft. To protect against identify theft, patients and persons who conducted business with South Shore Hospital between January 1, 1996 and January 6, 2010 may wish to consider taking the following precautionary steps:
Protecting Your Financial Information:
1. Call one of the three major credit bureaus and place a fraud alert on your credit report:
- Equifax: Call (800) 525-6285, www.equifax.com, or write: P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241.
- Experian: Call (888) 397-3742, www.experian.com, or write: P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013.
- TransUnion: Call (800) 680-7289, www.transunion.com, or write: Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790 Fullerton, CA 92834-6790.
Consumers only need to call one of the three credit bureaus; the one you contact is required by law to contact the other two credit bureaus. This one-call fraud alert will remain in your credit file for at least 90 days. When you place a fraud alert on your credit report, you are entitled to order one free credit report from each of the three nationwide consumer reporting agencies.
2. Order a copy of your credit report, and look for unauthorized activity. Look carefully for unexplained activity on your credit report.
3. If there is unexplained activity on your credit report, you may want to place an extended fraud alert on your credit report. In order to do this, you need to file a police report with your local police department, keep a copy for yourself, and provide a copy to one of the three major credit bureaus. Then an extended fraud alert can be placed on your credit file for a 7-year period. This will mean that any time a user of your credit report (for instance, a credit company of lender) checks your credit report, it will be notified that you do not authorize any new credit cards, any increase in credit limits, the issuance of a new card on an existing account, or other increases in credit, unless the user takes extra precautions to ensure that it is giving the additional credit to you (and not to an identity thief).
4. If there is unexplained activity on your credit report, you may also want to consider placing a security freeze on your credit reports. Massachusetts consumers can place a security freeze on their credit reports. In most instances, a security freeze prohibits a credit reporting agency from releasing any information from your credit report without your written authorization. Consumers should be aware that placing a security freeze on your credit report may delay, interfere with, or prevent the timely approval of any requests they make for new loans, credit mortgages, employment, housing or other lines of credit.
If you have been a victim of identity theft, and you provide the credit reporting agency with a valid police report, the credit reporting agency cannot charge you to place, lift or remove a security freeze. In all other cases, a credit reporting agency may charge you $5 fee for each placing, temporary lifting or removing of a security freeze.
To place a security freeze on your credit report, you should send a written request to each of the three nationwide consumer reporting agencies by regular, certified or over night mail at the addresses below:
Equifax Security Freeze
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, GA 30348
Experian Security Freeze
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
Fraud Victim Assistance Department
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834
In order to request a security freeze, you must:
- Provide your full name (including middle initial as well as Jr., Sr., II, III, etc.,) address.
- Social Security number, and date of birth;
- If you have moved in the past 5 years, supply the addresses where you have lived over the prior 5 years;
- Provide proof of current address such as a current utility bill or phone bill;
- Send a photocopy of a government issued identification card (state driver's license or ID card, military identification, etc.);
- If you are a victim of identity theft, include a copy of either the police report, investigative report, or complaint to a law enforcement agency concerning identity theft;
- If you are not a victim of identity theft, include payment by check, money order or credit card. Do not send cash in the mail.
5. Immediately examine your bank account for any suspicious activity. Whether you bank online or receive your statement in the mail, you may want to go over your statements carefully to ensure that there is nothing out of the ordinary on them. Report any irregularities to your financial institution.
Protecting Your Medical Information:
Medical identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information without your knowledge or consent to obtain, or receive payment for, medical treatment, services, or goods. Victims of medical identity theft may find that their medical records are inaccurate, which can have a serious impact on their ability to obtain proper medical care and insurance benefits.
To detect medical identity theft, consider the following steps:
- Closely monitor any "Explanation of Benefits" sent by public or private health insurers. If anything appears wrong, raise questions with the insurer or the provider. Do not assume that there are no problems simply because you may not owe any money.
- Request a listing of benefits paid in your name by any health insurers that might have made such payments on your behalf. Do this once a year (or more often, if you believe there is cause for concern).
- Monitor your credit reports with the nationwide credit reporting companies listed above (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) to identify reports of medical debts.
- Request copies of your current medical records from each health care provider and review your records for inaccuracies. Note that you will likely have to complete a form and pay a fee for a copy of these records