Thieves broke into Educational Credit Management Corp (ECMC)—leaving with a portable media device containing very sensitive information regarding federal student loans.
The company reported theft of “personally identifiable information” involving 3.3 million students. This could affect 5 percent of all students with federal loans in the U.S., making it one of the biggest cases of student identity theft in the nation, affecting 5 percent of all students with federal loans in the United States.
That “personally identifiable information” includes names, addresses, birth dates and Social Security numbers. No bank account or other financial information was taken but the information that was taken could obviously do huge amounts of damage.
ECMC is a nonprofit corporation that guarantees federally backed student loans and services student loans that have fallen into bankruptcy. It is the U.S. Department of Education’s designated handler of bankrupt student loans.
The FBI is involved. The break-in occurred sometime over the weekend of March 27 to 28 but was not publicized until last Friday.
ECMC is sending the affected students letters with information on fraud protection and has arranged for free credit monitoring and protection with Experian.
For more information call the toll-free hotline at 1-877-449-3658 or visit www.ecmc.org.
Tips for Avoiding Identity Theft
Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes, and it can affect everyone. Protect your personal information and reduce your risk with a few basic steps:
- Create a secure oasis for your computer. Protect your computer by using a firewall, anti-virus software and other security measures to prevent unauthorized access from outside sources.
- Be cautious with personal information online. Avoid providing personal information, such as your social security number, online in response to an email request from any financial institution, Internet service provider or other organization. Emails claiming to be from a reputable firm and asking for sensitive information are often fraudulent. A simple phone call can help you confirm their legitimacy and deliver your information over the phone.
- Soothe your fears by shredding sensitive documents. Identity thieves get information from many sources, including the mail and even trash bins. Get into the habit of shredding pre-approved credit card, insurance or loan applications, bills, credit card receipts, and anything that contains your personal information, when you no longer need them.
- Achieve financial peace of mind through regular monitoring. Checking your credit reports and other accounts on a regular basis using a tool like zendough.com by TransUnion can help you keep tabs on all of your financial activity. Familiarizing yourself with your credit history and cross-checking current activity will make it easier for you to identify and quickly repair any potential fraudulent developments.
- Know your next steps in case of identity theft. If you suspect that your personal information may have been compromised, your first step should be to contact the credit reporting bureaus to place a fraud alert and security freeze on your credit reports to prevent further damage. You should also contact your bank, credit card issuer, utility providers, and so on, as soon as possible.
Identity theft tips provided by zendough.com.