Hacking into Modern Life
I’ve been hacked. Or at least my personal information has. Not because I was careless, but because people “safeguarding” this sensitive personal data were asleep at the switch.
The problem started in 2013, when I visited a skin specialist to examine potential trouble spots on my chest and back. He also found one on my scalp, which proved to be the most painful of three “minor” surgeries.
To that point, when I visited a new medical provider, I sat down with a clipboard and filled out forms. I normally arrived at least 15 minutes early to give myself time to complete the paperwork.
While I followed this early-arrival practice with the skin doctor, instead of a clipboard the receptionist handed me an electronic pad. Ironically, completing the multiple fields on this gizmo took as long as it would have to jot down the information on paper.
Still, once I did, return visits were simple, and the pad even accepted my Discover card for the office visit charge. Via a web site, I could read the doctor’s report before my copy arrived in the mail.
Once I finished the course of treatment, I gave a sigh of relief and a quick prayer that I would never have to return. Not because I didn’t like the specialist, but because I never want to have anyone cutting on my skin again.
That was it, or so I thought until a letter showed up in the mail a few weeks back from a company in Portland, Oregon. Thinking it was a junk solicitation, I came close to tossing the address part in the paper shredder and the rest in the trash.
Good thing I took time to scan the letter. Later, I re-read it in detail to fully digest the bad news: in late May, the folks on the West Coast who—unbeknownst to me—had collected all that data I innocently submitted two years ago had been hacked.
Indications were that the identity thieves had made off with my name, address, Social Security number and other information. In other words, all the details needed to open a phony credit card, line of credit, or otherwise steal from me.
My first thought was: “How could this happen? How can people who are collecting such data not have better safeguards to prevent such an intrusion?”
The answer, of course, is that cyber thieves are often one step ahead of those who are supposed to prevent calamity. Why else would major corporations and Uncle Sam issue a big “oops” when literally millions of records vanish?
Not sure what to do next, I called the toll-free number to ask about the two years of free identity theft protection the medical records company was offering. When I asked if I needed it in light of my existing plan, the guy replied, “It’s free. Why not take it?”
After he mentioned that I could sign up online at the credit bureau handling their contract, I remarked, “Considering what happened, you might understand my reluctance to do that online.”
That brought a chuckle, but after he described the multiple “press 2” phone tree options on a call, I chose the online route. Good thing; when I later placed a fraud alert on my account I finally hung up in frustration and placed that via the web site.
For now, I can only hope that someone overseas isn’t trying to open credit in my name and knows how to bypass the fraud alert system. I also have an increased appreciation for Solomon’s wise words: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).