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The Day I Thought Cybercriminals Left Me For Dead

Early on a Wednesday evening, I received a call from my doctor. Her voice, frantic on the line, proclaims, “I’m so happy to hear your voice- the strangest thing happened today. You were marked in our system as deceased for about 20 minutes.” I paused for a moment out of shock, and assured her I was very much alive and well. She went on to explain how she’d never seen anything like it before. As the initial shock wore off, we started to have a bit of a laugh on how bizarre this was.

It wasn’t all giggles. As an unfortunate side effect of me being “dead” for 20 minutes, all of my appointments and procedures I had scheduled were cancelled.

I sighed to myself, thinking, “Well, this is going to be a pain, making calls to six different doctors offices tomorrow.” As the evening went on, and I texted a few friends about it, laughing at how bizarre it was and making resurrection jokes (“And now your watch has ended” – GOT fans will get this) and didn’t think much of it for the rest of the evening.

The next morning I woke up and began my usual routine. Suddenly, the “cyber security” portion of my brain kicked in and said to me “Wait a minute, your healthcare provider reported you as dead yesterday!” That can’t be good, I thought to myself.  Unfortunately, last year, my personal records were exposed in a data breach, so I know my information is out there. However, others may not. The problem with data breaches is that there’s really no way to know if your information has been breached unless you’ve been notified by the company that had the breach, or something unexpected happens with anything tied to your name. New accounts you never applied for, fraud alerts from your financial institutions, and even being told that you had died. The key to staying ahead of identity thieves is keeping a close eye on your credit reports, financial accounts and any other accounts that contain your personal information.

Naturally, the panic set in- what do I do?! Yes, I am a cyber security professional, but I am also a person, like everyone else, like you reading this now.

I sat there and gathered my thoughts and said to myself- Nadia, you’ve got this- this is what you DO every day! Clearly this is an identity theft red flag.

I decided to start at the source, and that was with my medical group. After being connected to four different departments and enduring that stale hold music, I was finally told that my physician’s office would be able to look into the “events” in my chart and see what happened. Luckily, I have a friend at my doctor’s office, and told him about it. He said I shouldn’t worry about it too much, and it was probably human error. Somewhat comforting, I still thought I should make sure all my bases were covered.

While waiting to hear back from my friend at my doctors’ office, I decided to call my insurance company to make sure they knew that I was indeed alive. The funny thing about this whole predicament is that everyone I talked to was just as shocked as I was, which eventually led to chuckles and jokes, once again. While the shock of being told you had died was dumbfounding, at least the absurdity of the situation brought some humor into process.

On to more phone calls. Medical provider- check. Insurance company- check. “What’s next?” I thought to myself. Obviously, my credit report. I called up a credit reporting agency, to check two things- one- that they knew I was alive, and two, if anything fishy has popped up on my report. Everything checked out OK there, but I did put a 90-day alert on my account, which will notify me about any new inquiries or accounts. Better to be safe than sorry.

Luckily, in my case, this did turn out to be a “glitch,” however you can never be too careful. Identity theft is rampant both on and off the Internet.  As the old adage goes, “if you see something, say something.” If anything strange happens to you, no matter how bizarre it may sound, check it out. It may be a glitch, but there’s a chance it might not be.