Last week we heard some disturbing reports about Medicare numbers being sold on the ‘dark web’.
This should be concerning to each of us and it raises a number of questions that are worth considering:
- How secure does a Medicare number need to be?
A Medicare number on its own is pretty harmless. Without the Medicare card that goes with it, a Medicare number is probably of little use to anyone. Let’s face it, if I go to my doctor’s surgery for a consultation, the staff are going to want to see my Medicare card. It is highly unlikely they will accept a number I have written on a piece of paper, and I certainly can’t go into the Department of Human Services office to claim Medicare benefits without having my card. Admittedly, I can claim benefits on-line by quoting my number and without having to provide my card, however, I suspect the people who might want to buy my Medicare number have something more sinister in mind.
- What can my Medicare number be used for?
Once someone has a legitimate Medicare number that belongs to an individual, it can be used for producing a fake Medicare card. That is where the real mischief starts. A Medicare card is not only used for accessing medical and pharmaceutical services and benefits, but it is also a ‘secondary document’ – worth 25 points – when proving one’s identity under the ‘100 point check’. So a Medicare card, fake or otherwise can be used in conjunction with other documents by anyone wanting to steal your identity.
- What is the ‘dark web’?
As mentioned above, Medicare numbers are being offered for sale on the ‘dark web’. If I am honest with you, I only had a passing understanding of the dark web. So, I thought it would be worth having a bit of a look. Not at the dark web itself, but in Wikipedia – the source of all information you could ever want or need!
From what I have found, the dark web is an intriguing place where most good folk will never venture. It an underworld of networks that often require specific software, configurations and authorisations to access.
In the majority, if not all cases, the dark web cannot be accessed via your usual search engines like Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox etc.
The dark web seems to be the place where drugs and guns are bought and sold, stolen goods can be obtained, and information like Medicare number can be purchased.
So, where does this leave us?
My Medicare number is available for you to purchase on the dark web. But what are you going to do with it when you get it?
You could get a fake Medicare card made up and then use it to steal my identity. But you will probably also need my birth certificate, passport, driver’s license and other documents to complete the picture.
I suspect that the theft of Medicare number is annoying and it could leave us with a feeling of having been violated. It is the thin edge of the wedge. I am sure that the theft of one’s identity is something none of us wishes to experience. It would be very annoying, inconvenient and costly, particularly if the perpetrators access our bank, investments and superannuation accounts.
So, what is the lesson?
We all wish to protect our privacy to some degree or another, and when something that is uniquely ours is taken, we take it very personally.
However, no matter how hard we try to prevent it, there is always someone out there who is one step ahead of us. Take your security seriously – particularly your online security, and be very careful who you share your personal information with.
Oh, and note to self – time to change my passwords! Now, isn’t that a pain?4