A data breach at the University of California, Berkeley exposed some Social Security and bank account numbers of current and former students, in addition to some of their family members, according to an April 30 announcement from the school. There have not yet been signs of anyone abusing the data, the announcement said.
The servers storing the sensitive information were accessed by an unauthorized party in December 2014 and again in February 2015, investigators found. University officials learned of the breach March 14 and took the server offline. The server stored family financial information submitted by students.
Compared with other breaches that have been in the news, this affected a relatively small group of people: The university sent letters to those affected, which included about 260 undergraduate and former students, as well as about 290 parents or relatives of the notified students. UC Berkeley, a public research university, has an enrollment of roughly 36,200. Still, the kind of information exposed in this breach makes this a big deal, especially if you’re among that small group of individuals.
A Social Security number can be used to commit all sorts of fraud, which puts the victims’ personal and financial well-being at risk. A thief can open fake credit accounts and trash the victim’s credit, or the thief could commit crimes using the victim’s identity. Perhaps even worse, a thief could commit medical identity theft, which could cause inaccuracies in a person’s medical files or deplete someone’s health care resources. The longer such activity goes undetected, the more damaging it can be.
“The institutions of higher learning are under assault — look at University of Texas, Stanford, Rutgers. That’s because the universities are historically open environments, and open environments create vulnerabilities,” said Adam Levin, privacy expert, and chairman and founder of Credit.com. “They really have their work cut out for them when it comes to securing their data.”
People affected by the UC Berkeley breach will receive a year of free credit monitoring, as well as general information about how to get their free annual credit reports and how to contact the major credit reporting agencies in the event of fraud, said Janet Gilmore, UC Berkeley’s director of strategic communications. As of May 1, the university had no knowledge of fraud related to the breach, Gilmore told Credit.com.
All consumers should keep a close eye on their finances and credit, but it’s especially important to do it if your personal information has been compromised. Credit scores are a great fraud-detection resource, because any unexpected major changes to your score can tip you off to a potential problem, and should prompt you to check your credit reports and financial statements for fraudulent purchases or accounts. You can see two of your credit scores every month for free on Credit.com.
More on Identity Theft:
- How Can You Tell If Your Identity Has Been Stolen?
- What Should I Do If I’m a Victim of Identity Theft?
- How Credit Impacts Your Day-to-Day Life
Image: Falcorian via Wikimedia Commons