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Data breaches at major corporations make headlines, as the leaked information poses a security risk to millions of individuals simultaneously. But what hasn’t been receiving much major media coverage are the breaches affecting seniors.
One recently reported breach reported by Independent Living Systems (ILS) occurred in 2022. Originally thought to have compromised about 500 individuals, the investigation concluded in 2023 that 4.2 million elderly and disabled seniors were affected. Personal information leaked includes names, emails, phone numbers, Social Security numbers, financial records, and health information.
The ILS attack came after one at the Heritage Provider Network in California, affecting 3.3 million seniors. The health care industry is at the top of the list for hacking, phishing, and ransomware attempts. However, many medical facilities are ill-prepared to handle it. Data breaches are going on for extended periods and are not being reported within the 60 days mandated by HIPAA.
How Do We Stop Data Breaches?
Large companies and corporations in all industries must have protocols in place for cybersecurity risk management and prevention. Many health care facilities and HIPAA simply aren’t well enough equipped to deal with security needs today. Our technological landscape is remarkably different from 1996 when HIPAA was enacted.
Any legislation or regulation faces a similar problem: technology continues to adapt quickly, and the market pushes the health care sector to invest in technological advances as they come. Updates to software and processes require security patches and 24/7 monitoring and security — criminals lie in wait.
How Can We Protect Seniors?
Many people know what to do to protect themselves, but often seniors need the help of family members to explain how technology works, how to avoid revealing sensitive information, and how to identify red flags. Share a few tips to protect your senior family member’s online information:
- Never open an email from an unknown sender that contains an attachment.
- When storing information online with a bank or medical provider, make sure you choose a strong password – one that contains a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols that is not easy to guess.
- Do not store credit card or social security information online.
It’s common to skip security steps because they feel inconvenient. But the consequences are identity theft, financial hardship, and emotional upheaval. Once criminals have secured information from a data breach, seniors become a prime target for scams that lead to fraud and abuse. If you have questions or would like to discuss protecting a senior family member from potential fraud and abuse, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We are happy to help.
Our estate planning and elder law firm is dedicated to keeping you informed of issues that affect seniors who may be experiencing declining health. Our elder law attorneys help families and their loved ones locate secure, high-quality services for in-home care, assisted living, and nursing home facilities, as well as ways to pay for services. Ask us about long-term care planning and eligibility for government benefit programs.