Data breaches have become so commonplace that it’s easy to underestimate how dangerous they are to our financial health, according to money expert Clark Howard.
“The answer to every question in your life is to freeze your credit,” he says. “Even with how simple it is and how it’s available anywhere for free in the United States, the overwhelming number of Americans have not done it. That ignores a key rule: Prevention is so much simpler than the cure. Because once somebody has started pretending that they’re you, and applying for credit as if they’re you and trying to buy cars as if they’re you, cleaning it up is a mess.”
One company currently handling such a mess is PharMerica, one of the country’s largest pharmacy services providers.
PharMerica Data Breach Affects Nearly 6 Million
PharMerica recently told its customers that along with its parent company, BrightSpring Health Services, it suffered a massive data breach. Nearly 6 million people may be affected.
“The investigation determined that an unknown third party accessed PharMerica computer systems from March 12-13, 2023 and that certain personal information may have been obtained as a part of the incident,” PharMerica says in a statement on its website.
According to PharMerica, the data breach exposed the following personal information of patients:
- Dates of Birth
- Social Security Numbers
- Medication Lists
- Health Insurance Information
In its May 12 letter (uploaded online by tech site BleepingComputer) to those affected, PharMerica says, “We have no reason to believe that anyone’s information has been misused for the purpose of committing fraud or identity theft.” However, TechCrunch.com reports that details of the leaked data, including allergy medications and Medicare numbers, were also stolen and have fallen into the hands of criminals.
“This stolen data was published on the dark web leak site of the Money Message ransomware gang, a relatively new operation,” reports TechCrunch. “Money Message claims to have stolen a total of 4.7 terabytes of data from PharMerica and its parent company BrightSpring Health, a home and community-based health service provider.”
Data Breach: How To Protect Yourself
If you received a letter from PharMerica warning you that your personal information may be involved in the data breach, remain calm.
The truth about internet safety and privacy is that no matter how cyber-secure your personal information is, it may already be on the dark web. There’s no need to get yourself into a panic about it.
Freeze Your Credit
Clark says the key to protecting yourself against a data breach, which could lead to having your identity stolen and financial ruin, is to freeze your credit.
“The biggest confusion about freezing your credit is that people think it means that the credit you have is no longer accessible to you. But it has nothing to do with your existing credit. It’s only for somebody attempting to apply for new credit as if they’re you.”
Clark says companies affected by data breaches will typically hire a mitigation firm, then send you a letter offering you credit monitoring for 24 months or so. Don’t fall for it.
“Anytime you read one of these letters, and you see the standard operating procedure of the worthless credit monitoring, no matter how they word it, remember that it’s worthless,” Clark says. “Because it’s only alerting you that somebody has stolen your identity and is trying to run off with your money. The only effective tool — and you’ll hear me say this over and over again for decades now — is a credit freeze.”