Recently, Wheeling Health Right, Inc. confirmed that, as a result of a ransomware attack, the sensitive information of as many as 3,912 individuals was compromised, possibly including their Social Security numbers and protected health information.
If you received a data breach notification, it is essential you understand what is at risk. The data breach lawyers at Console & Associates, P.C. are actively investigating the Wheeling Health Right data breach on behalf of people whose information was exposed. As a part of this investigation, we are providing free consultations to anyone affected by the breach who is interested in learning more about the risks of identity theft, what they can do to protect themselves, and what their legal options may be to obtain compensation from Wheeling Health Right. Last year, 1,862 data breaches affected more than 189 million people. On average, victims of identity theft spend 200 hours and over $1,300 recovering their identity. Many victims also suffer emotional distress, credit damage, and may even end up with a criminal record. Taking immediate action is the best way to prevent the worst consequences of a data breach.
What We Know So Far About the Wheeling Health Right Data Breach
According to a notice posted on the company’s website, on January 18, 2022, Wheeling Health Right learned that it was the victim of a ransomware attack. In response, the company secured its network and launched an investigation into the incident to determine whether any consumer information was exposed.
While the compromised information varies by consumer, it may include your full name, postal address, email address, phone number, driver’s license number, medical record number, Social Security number, tax information, income information, and other health information about patients who applied for or received services from Wheeling Health Right.
On March 18, 2022, Wheeling Health Right began sending out data breach notification letters to all individuals whose information was compromised as a result of the recent data security incident.
Wheeling Health Right is a healthcare provider of last resort for individuals who fall under the federal government’s poverty guidelines but do not qualify for Medicaid, VA benefits, or other health insurance benefits. Wheeling Health Right provides medical care, nursing care and prescription drugs, as well as certain social services to its members. The company is based in Wheeling, West Virginia and generates annual revenue of more than $5 million.
More About the Causes and Risks of Data Breaches
Often, data breaches are the result of a hacker gaining unauthorized access to a company’s computer systems with the intention of obtaining sensitive consumer information. While no one can know the reason why a hacker targeted Wheeling Health Right, it is common for hackers and other criminals to identify those companies believed to have weak data security systems or vulnerabilities in their networks.
Once a cybercriminal gains access to a computer network, they can then access and remove any data stored on the compromised servers. While in most cases a company experiencing a data breach can identify which files were accessible, there may be no way for the company to tell which files the hacker actually accessed or whether they removed any data.
While the fact that your information was compromised in a data breach does not necessarily mean it will be used for criminal purposes, being the victim of a data breach puts your sensitive data in the hands of an unauthorized person. As a result, you are at an increased risk of identity theft and other frauds, and criminal use of your information is a possibility that should not be ignored.
Given this reality, individuals who receive a Wheeling Health Right data breach notification should take the situation seriously and remain vigilant in checking for any signs of unauthorized activity. Businesses like Wheeling Health Right are responsible for protecting the consumer data in their possession. If evidence emerges that Wheeling Health Right failed to adequately protect your sensitive information, you may be eligible for financial compensation through a data breach lawsuit.
What Are Consumers’ Remedies in the Wake of the Wheeling Health Right Data Breach?
When customers decided to do business with Wheeling Health Right, they assumed that the company would take their privacy concerns seriously. And it goes without saying that consumers would think twice before giving a company access to their information if they knew it wasn’t going to be secure. Thus, data breaches such as this one raise questions about the adequacy of a company’s data security system.
When a business, government entity, non-profit organization, school, or any other organization accepts and stores consumer data, it also accepts a legal obligation to ensure this information remains private. The United States data breach laws allow consumers to pursue civil data breach claims against organizations that fail to protect their information.
Of course, given the recency of the Wheeling Health Right data breach, the investigation into the incident is still in its early stages. And, as of right now, there is not yet any evidence suggesting Wheeling Health Right is legally responsible for the breach. However, that could change as additional information about the breach and its causes is revealed.
If you have questions about your ability to bring a data breach class action lawsuit against Wheeling Health Right, reach out to a data breach attorney as soon as possible.
What Should You Do if You Receive a Wheeling Health Right Data Breach Notification?
If Wheeling Health Right sends you a data breach notification letter, you are among those whose information was compromised in the recent breach. While this isn’t a time to panic, the situation warrants your attention. Below are a few important steps you can take to protect yourself from identity theft and other fraudulent activity:
Identify What Information Was Compromised: The first thing to do after learning of a data breach is to carefully review the data breach letter sent. The letter will tell you what information of yours was accessible to the unauthorized party. Be sure to make a copy of the letter and keep it for your records. If you have trouble understanding the letter or what steps you can take to protect yourself, a data breach lawyer can help.
Limit Future Access to Your Accounts: Once you determine what information of yours was affected by the breach, the safest play is to assume that the hacker orchestrating the attack stole your data. While this may not be the case, it’s better to be safe than sorry. To prevent future access to your accounts, you should change all passwords and security questions for any online account. This includes online banking accounts, credit card accounts, online shopping accounts, and any other account containing your personal information. You should also consider changing your social media account passwords and setting up multi-factor authentication where it is available.
Protect Your Credit and Your Financial Accounts: After a data breach, companies often provide affected parties with free credit monitoring services. Signing up for the free credit monitoring offers some significant protections and doesn’t impact any of your rights to pursue a data breach lawsuit against the company if it turns out they were legally responsible for the breach. You should contact a credit bureau to request a copy of your credit report—even if you do not notice any signs of fraud or unauthorized activity. Adding a fraud alert to your account will provide you with additional protection.
Consider Implementing a Credit Freeze: A credit freeze prevents anyone from accessing your credit report. Credit freezes are free and stay in effect until you remove them. Once a credit freeze is in place, you can temporarily lift the freeze if you need to apply for any type of credit. While placing a credit freeze on your accounts may seem like overkill, given the risks involved, it’s justified. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center (“ITRC”), placing a credit freeze on your account is the “single most effective way to prevent a new credit/financial account from being opened.” However, just 3% of data breach victims place a freeze on their accounts.
Regularly Monitor Your Credit Report and Financial Accounts: Protecting yourself in the wake of a data breach requires an ongoing effort on your part. You should regularly check your credit report and all financial account statements, looking for any signs of unauthorized activity or fraud. You should also call your banks and credit card companies to report the fact that your information was compromised in a data breach.
Below is a copy of the notice by Wheeling Health Right, Inc.:
On January 18, 2022, Wheeling Health Right discovered that our organization was victimized by a ransomware attack that encrypted our systems. Upon discovery of the security incident, we engaged legal counsel and a data breach remediation firm to conduct an investigation into the scope of the security incident. Although we are unaware of any actual or attempted misuse of information as a result of this security incident, we are providing notice because our investigation determined that an unauthorized third-party may have had access to certain patient information.
What Information Was Involved?
The type of information that may have been accessed includes: full name, postal address, email address, phone number, driver’s license number, medical record number, Social Security number, tax information, income information, and other health information about patients who applied for or received services from Wheeling Health Right.
What We Are Doing
Following discovery of the security incident, we immediately initiated remedial security measures to further safeguard patient information. These measures included, among others, retaining a data breach remediation firm to help investigate the scope of the security incident, leveraging our information technology service provider to decrypt, recover, and rebuild our systems, initiating a password reset for all system end users, implementing multi-factor authentication for employee email accounts, and installing endpoint detection and response software, among various other measures.
We are also taking steps to implement additional safeguards, review policies and procedures relating to data privacy and security, and enhance employee cybersecurity training in order to protect against similar incidents in the future. In addition, we have notified regulators of the event as required as well, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and applicable state regulators.
What You Can Do
Please review the below supplement (Steps You Can Take to Protect Your Information) for additional steps you can take to further protect your information. In addition, we have engaged a nationally-recognized third party to provide identity monitoring to affected individuals at no cost for 12 months. The identity monitoring services provided to affected individuals include Credit Monitoring, Fraud Consultation, and Identity Theft Restoration. If your information was determined to be potentially affected, a letter was sent to your mailing address on file on March 18, 2022, with additional information regarding how to activate your identity monitoring services.
If you think your information may have been affected by the data breach but you did not receive a letter from Wheeling Health Right, we encourage you to contact the call center using the information below. Representatives will be able to inform you whether your information was affected and, if so, assist you in taking advantage of the services we are offering to affected individuals.
For More Information
We have established a call center to respond to any questions you may have about the security incident. Please call (855) 541-3589 toll-free, Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. ET, with any questions.