An information heist from a Minnesota student loan processing company has culminated in the theft of names, addresses, birth dates and social security numbers of 25,000 students throughout Minnesota.
Educational Credit Management Corporation discovered a break-in at its Oakdale headquarters March 21 and reported that about 3.3 million students nationwide had their personal information stolen.
Ten of those students are currently enrolled at the University of Minnesota, said David Hawn, ECMC chief business development officer.
The company labeled the break-in an “old-fashioned theft,” where someone physically went into a secured area and stole information stored on “portable media.” No bank account or other financial account information was included in the stolen data, Hawn said.
“We are taking this matter very seriously,” Hawn said, “and especially have a heightened concern about the impact to borrowers in the Minnesota area.”
ECMC is offering a year’s worth of free credit-monitoring services to affected students through California-based Experian, which offers anti-fraud counseling and anti-theft insurance. But after more than a week, some affected borrowers are not yet aware their personal identification information has been stolen.
The companies plan to send letters to students Wednesday, including information on how to set up the monitoring and protection services, Hawn said.
Though the case was large, Hawn said that of information theft cases in the United States, it ranks in the “lower third of the cases that have been reported over the last five years.”
The company released a statement regarding the theft Friday, almost five days after the break-in, when law enforcement officials gave the green light, Hawn said.
The University was not contacted following the information theft, said Kristine Wright, director of the Office of Student Finance. She said it wouldn’t be contacted because students with loans through the University are direct loan borrowers, so their information would be kept with the Department of Education, not ECMC.
University students affected would be those who have federal loans serviced by ECMC that they borrowed through somewhere other than the University, Wright said.
Clearing up credit fraud can be a painstaking and frustrating process, sometimes taking several years before a name is cleared of wrongdoing.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, people who find themselves victim to identity theft should report the crime to the Federal Trade Commission at 877-438-4338. The FTC is responsible for referring complaints to appropriate entities, including the major credit reporting agencies and law enforcement agencies.
“This is always a good reminder to know where your loans are and what loans you have,” Wright said.
Until notification letters arrive, students concerned they may be affected can visit ECMC’s Web site, where directions from the home page provide two different avenues to help students determine if they have been impacted by the theft. Students can call ECMC to find out if the company has their records.
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