Hospitals held for ransom by flood of robocalls: 5 details

Becker's Health IT

Hannah Mitchell

Robocalls are the No. 1 consumer complaint filed with the Federal Communications Commission, and robocalls to hospitals are a significant portion of the problem, creating a new type of ransomware attack on hospitals and a threat to public safety.

The illegal calls flood hospital networks and are often perpetuating fraud. The nonstop flow of calls undermines hospitals' ability to perform patient care by keeping staff on phone lines unnecessarily and impairing operational capacity, according to a June 11 FCC news release.

Five details:

Robocallers often use spoofed caller ID to trick hospital staff into thinking it's a real patient. Some robocalls attempt to trick hospital staff into giving up the insurance or financial information of a staff member. Hospitals have been falling victim to the intentional flooding of phone networks with multiple simultaneous calls, demanding a ransom payment in exchange for stopping the attack.

The flow of calls can clog phone lines and make it difficult for patient calls to get through. One hospital received 4,500 robocalls in two hours in 2018. Another hospital had 6,500 calls with spoofed caller ID to look like internal calls and tied up 65 hours of response time of hospital staff over 90 days. This hospital also received 300 robocalls spoofing numbers affiliated with the Justice Department in an attempt to extract sensitive information from physicians.

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