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Anthem plan members brace for news as scammers start calling

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(Bloomberg) — Anthem Inc. (NYSE:ANTM) members said they’re stuck in helpless resignation after a corporate cyber-attack, waiting for news on whether their data was compromised even as scammers began seeking to exploit them with phishing and phone calls.

See also: Anthem hack: Who (other than the hackers) could benefit?

Anthem, the second-biggest U.S. health insurer by market value, said it will probably take about two weeks to figure out how many of its 80 million current and former customers and employees had information like Social Security numbers and insurance IDs exposed by hackers, and to start notifying them.

The insurer warned Friday that customers should beware of phishing e-mails that solicit personal information, including a “click here” link for credit monitoring. Scam artists are also trying to trick consumers into revealing personal data over the phone, the company said in a statement. Anthem will contact affected people via the mail.

The company plans to offer free credit monitoring and identity theft protection to any members or former members who are in the database that was hacked, said Kristin Binns, an Anthem spokeswoman. The identity protection will apply retroactively, she said.

Some customers said they feel like sitting ducks. With their information potentially seized by unknown hands, there’s little they can do to protect themselves.

“With how quickly things are done on the Internet, where is this data? Is it already gone? Is it already sold?” said Jessica Rogers, 37, an Anthem member who’s a marketing instructor in the Dallas area. “And meanwhile, I’m waiting for a letter.”

Senate initiative

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) called for a multi-state examination of Anthem and its affiliates.

“An immediate and comprehensive review of the company’s security must be a priority to ensure protection of consumers who are covered by Anthem,” Monica Lindeen, president of the regulators’ group, said in an e-mailed statement.

Sens. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, and Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat, who lead the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, today announced an initiative to examine the security of health-information technology and see whether Congress can help ensure the safety of health and insurance records.

See also: 5 reasons the Anthem hacking story should make YOU shiver.

Security specialists have advised consumers to keep an eye on claims reports for signs of medical-identity theft and to watch bank statements and search online for their names and e-mail addresses for early signs of fraud. There’s no action they can take to be 100 percent sure their identity won’t be swiped.

Intuit Inc., which makes the TurboTax software, said Friday it temporarily suspended filing of state returns after finding that its service may have been used to file fraudulent returns by people using stolen information.

Corporate hacks

Corporate hacks have become common enough that many people are already getting credit monitoring or identity-theft protection from other companies that have fallen victim to cyber-attacks.

“Home Depot lost my information last year and Anthem lost it this year. It’s like, who’s going to lose it next?” said Daniel Murphy, 31, a developer and product manager at church software maker Ministry Centered Technologies in Carlsbad, Calif. He said he’s considering locking access to his credit report once he finishes refinancing his home mortgage.

“I don’t know what else to do,” he said. “I already have credit monitoring.”

‘Not responsive’

Mark Edwards, a 55-year-old former Anthem customer who switched insurers earlier this year, said he put a freeze on his credit reports when he found out about the Anthem hack. He said he called the company to ask whether it would reimburse him for the $15 he spent to do so, but he couldn’t get an answer.

Anthem has been too slow to notify people who are affected, said Edwards, a social-media consultant in Chesterfield, Mo.

“When you’re talking about identity theft, time is money, literally,” he said. “It’s slow and it’s not responsive, based on the potential damage that could be caused. This is way more serious than a credit-card breach.”

—With assistance from Caroline Chen in San Francisco.


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