Healthcare Information Security

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Sentara Healthcare aides indicted in tax fraud scheme

By Patrick Ouellette

- Because of their involvement in a multi-patient tax fraud scheme that occurred between September 2011 and April 2013, two former Sentara Healthcare nurse’s aides were indicted last Wednesday.

The pair, Festus Ighalo, 36, of Virginia Beach and Emmanuel Effiong, 35, of Dallas, Texas, stole at least 12 identities and, according to HamptonRoads.com, accrued $116,000 in fraudulent tax returns. Ighalo and Effiong stole Sentara Virginia Beach medical facility patient names, birth dates and Social Security numbers and sold them to others who filed the fake tax refunds claims. There were 47 counts in all, including charges include conspiracy to defraud the government, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

The indictment said that there were 77 fraudulent tax returns in all and they fluctuated from $999 to $7,300 each. Though the IRS paid back the $116,000, the scheme members actually filed for $401,074 in returns.

“We take the protection of patient information entrusted to us very seriously and have safeguards in place,” Greg Burkhart, Sentara Healthcare’s chief privacy officer said. Burkhart also stated that every Sentara employee is required to sign a pledge each year promising to protect patient information and the company is offering patients identified in the indictment a one-year subscription to credit-monitoring services.

Ighalo and Effiong will be arraigned this Wednesday in U.S. District Court. While there’s only so much an organization can do to prevent this type of activity, it will be interesting to see whether Sentara takes a long look at user access for patient records.

DCS encrypted laptop stolen

Though an Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) employee laptop was stolen from her car, all data and client files were encrypted so there was technically no data breach. For all the unencrypted laptops that get lost or stolen, it’s helpful to hear every so often of an organization successfully preparing for patient information theft.

Using GPS technology, police were able to find the stolen laptop, which had been sold to another person who didn’t realize it was stolen. According to TheIndyChannel.com, DCS spokeswoman Stephanie McFarland said children and their families’ data on the computer are secure. “There was no data breach,” she said.

 

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