The operation was allegedly an inside job carried out by Blue Cross Blue Shield employee Angela Patton, 47, of Belleville, Michigan. Patton printed screenshots withmore than 5,000 subscribers’ personal information and shared it with co-conspirators so they would be able to open up counterfeit credit cards. The stolen information was used to purchase more than $742,000 worth of merchandise at Sam’s Club.
While Anthem is the parent company of Blue Cross Blue Shield, Patton’s scheme ran from 2012 to 2014, indicating that this theft is unrelated to the recent Anthem data breach.
A federal investigation led to arrests in Texas, Ohio and Michigan. While executing search warrants at co-conspirators’ homes in metro Detroit, agents recovered the information of thousands of Blue Cross Blue Shield subscribers, including names, birth dates and Social Security numbers. They also found counterfeit and re-encoded credit and gift cards, according to Detroit News.
Daniel Loepp, president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield Michigan, told the Detroit Free Press, “I am personally saddened by this former employee’s involvement. Their alleged behavior in no way represents the ethical standards brought to work every day by our more than 7,000 employees, who are committed to serving our members with integrity and honesty.”
Also indicted were Sam Oscar Patton, 47, of Dearborn; Dontez Patton, 23, of Woodhaven; Johnathon Weston, 24, of Detroit; Charlie Smith, 47, of Detroit; Thomas Turner Sr., 47, of Detroit; Verdell Kennedy, 45, of Detroit; Tynekwa Hill, 26, of Pontiac; Jeffrey Morton, 41, of Oak Park; Raymond Thomas, 40, of Oak Park and Aramona Coleman, 56, of Southfield.
Subscribers whose information was stolen will be contacted by mail and offered two years of free credit protection services. Blue Cross Blue Shield also encourages policy holders who notice any inappropriate activity on their Explanation of Benefits statements to contact the company’s anti-fraud hotline.
In a press release U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade stated that while technology was making it easier for criminals to commit id theft it was also making it easier for law enforcement officials to catch them.
This identity theft case was investigated by the Southeast Michigan Financial and Cyber Crimes Task Force.
Identity theft is indeed becoming more and more pervasive as technology evolves. It is important to take steps to protect your identity. While it is impossible to avoid identity theft altogether, making yourself a smaller target goes a long way. Here are some options to consider:
- Check activity on your insurance policy regularly and alert the company if you notice anything wrong.
- Find out how insurance companies protect your sensitive information, and what they do in the case of a breach, before you sign up with them.
- Use a credit monitoring service to keep track of your credit activity, and read over bank and credit card statements routinely to make sure everything is in order.
As identity theft becomes more common it is necessary to understand the vulnerabilities in our personal data and to work to keep information as private as possible.