A national hospital chain said suspected Chinese hackers breached its computer system earlier this year. Patients whose doctors work with any of five hospitals in the Northwest might have had financial data stolen.
The cyber-attack targeted Community Health Systems. A statement from the company said the hackers stole non-medical data, including names, Social Security numbers, addresses, birthdays and telephone numbers. That combination provides the keys for identity theft says Norma Garcia. She's a senior attorney at Consumers Union.
"One way to monitor whether fraudsters are trying to open new accounts in your name is by keeping close tabs on your credit reports,” Garcia said. “Any new accounts opened in your name should appear in your credit report in virtually real time."
Garcia suggests you request your free annual credit report from the three major credit bureaus in staggered fashion, maybe one every three months.
Both Garcia and a spokeswoman for Washington's Attorney General also recommend that consumers activate free fraud alerts or other online account management tools on existing accounts at the financial institutions where they currently do business.
The hospital company in this attack said it is notifying affected patients by letter. It will offer them identify theft protection.
Community Health Systems is the parent company of McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center in Springfield, Ore., Deaconess Hospital in Spokane and Valley Hospital in Spokane Valley. The chain also recently acquired Yakima Regional Medical Center and Toppenish Community Hospital.
Consumers can find more instructions for how to defend against fraud and freeze outside access to their credit at this website.
Copyright 2014 Northwest News Network