Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of NJ Loses Customer Data

January 29, 2008 by  

Laptop in chainsI come home tonight to find multiple letters addressed to myself, my wife and young children informing us how Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey lost our confidential personal information (name, address and social security number) and exposed my entire family to potential fraud and identity theft.

The letter also says: “We do not believe any of your medical data was on the computer.” That’s not definite. It’s possible, but they are not sure.

My wife and I are outraged. No explanation was given as to why an employee is taking home our confidential information on a laptop.

Careless procedures and a casual attitude have needlessly exposed my family to risk and extra burden now. This is a betrayal of trust. Horizon can never earn that back.

These large companies insist on collecting unnecessary information about you. A health insurance company has no need for any person’s social security number, period! The Social Security Number is for social security and tax reporting and is not a universal ID number. Now Horizon has carelessly lost the data and put 300,000+ people at risk.

I’ve seen this kind of sloppy behavior repeatedly at the mega brand companies I’ve worked with. The PR department says one thing. The Privacy Officer says another thing. Then the line managers ignore the policies because they’re under pressure to get their work done.

The Health Insurance companies bully us around and all we do is bend over and take it.

So, since I cherish the virtues of social media, I roared as any good consumer will. Do something good and I’ll tell two friends. Burn me and I’ll tell twenty.

So I sent emails to my local papers and news radio station. I posted my opinions on blogs. I twittered about it. (Hmm, I feel one or two podcast episodes might be next.)

Now I’ll put my marketer hat on. It occurred to me to watch closely how this company will react over the next few days/weeks doing damage control. Not due to my efforts, but hopefully the combined efforts of many frustrated customers.

Then again, Horizon might just blow everyone off with a obligatory 12-month membership to credit monitoring (thanks for the extra hassle) to make us go away quietly.

Funny thing is as soon as I published my blog posts, the banner ads on the site were all suddenly about getting affordable insurance from Horizon. If Horizon was smart, they’d shut their campaign off for awhile, or replace it with ads that soften the negative press.

I’ll let you know what I observe.

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2 Responses to “Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of NJ Loses Customer Data”
  1. Appalled says:

    This kind of irresponsible behavior on the part of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield is *appalling*. I too received a letter and am still in shock. It’s like being mugged. To make things worse, contacts at the customer service number they established gave out conflicting information as to exactly what information was stolen. When asked, they were unable to provide any specific details about how this happened, why the employee had this information on a laptop, let alone what measures they were taking to ensure such an appalling security breach does not happen again.

    It is great to tell individuals to safe-guard their information. But what happens when they have done all that they can and are now in jeopardy due to the apparent carelessness and poor security of a large company like this? The customers that mistakenly placed their faith in Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield will now have to suffer the consequences. But shouldn’t Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield have to accept some responsibility? If this were the act of an individual, not a large company, it seems likely that someone would be pressing legal charges against them. As individuals what recourse to we have?

  2. Roland Reinhart says:

    One piece of good news to come from it today:
    NJ Senator Calls for Hearings and Investigation of Massive Data Loss by Horizon Blue Cross/Blue Shield (Read announcement)
    But this might just be opportunistic lip service until the health industry lobbyists get involved to make political donations and sweep everything under the rug.