State Attorney General Letitia James. 

State Attorney General Letitia James.  Credit: Sipa USA via AP/Lev Radin

The New York attorney general urged former and current Northwell Health patients to be alert in the wake of a data breach that exposed patient information going back to 2015 and potentially even earlier. 

New York Attorney General Letitia James warned Tuesday that at least 4 million New Yorkers may be affected by a cyberattack on Perry Johnson & Associates, a medical transcription service used by Northwell and Crouse Health, an upstate health system.

The Nevada-based PJ&A has said an unauthorized intruder  broke into its network this spring and accessed files that contain patient information, including Social Security numbers, diagnoses and other clinical information. Northwell has said its systems were spared and it isn't aware of any patients' information being misused.

Still, stolen health care information can be used to obtain loans and medical treatments at patients' expense. 

Most people impacted by the breach have been notified — many through a written notice — and anyone who is or was a patient at Northwell should be proactive about preventing identity theft, James said.

"I urge all New Yorkers affected by this data breach to stay alert and take these important steps to protect themselves," James said in a statement. "Bad actors can use the stolen information to impersonate individuals or cause financial harm." 

James said Northwell patients should put a fraud alert on their credit report, monitor their credit and medical records and report any suspected fraud to their health insurance provider.

James' advice to prevent identity theft and fraud:

  • Use a credit monitoring service to watch for any new accounts or large purchases made under your name.
  • Consider contacting the major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — and putting a freeze on your credit report, which will prevent others from opening new accounts in your name.
  • Ask the credit bureaus to put a fraud alert on your credit report, which will prompt lenders and creditors to be extra careful about verifying your identity before issuing credit in your name.
  • Get and review your records from clinics, pharmacies and your insurance company.
  • Ask them to correct any errors you uncover.
  • Contest any unrecognized medical bills.
  • Medicare patients can report issues to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General at 800-447-8477.
  • If your information is used fraudulently, you may want to file a report with the Federal Trade Commission by calling 877-438-4338.
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