In the wake of the announcement that the parent company of Northwest Medical Center and Oro Valley Hospital was the victim of a massive data-breach, Better Business Bureau Serving Southern Arizona is urging consumers to take steps to safeguard their identities.
Community Health Systems (CHS), which operates 206 hospitals nationwide, announced that hackers have stolen data for 4.5 million patients. Data that has been compromised is said to include patient names, Social Security numbers, physical addresses, birth dates and telephone numbers.
A representative from Northwest Medical Center told BBB that no patient medical or financial data was stolen, and that Community Health Systems will be offering all affected patients free identity theft monitoring.
Community Health Systems will notify any Northwest Medical Center or Oro Valley Hospital patients that were affected by mail. Patients with questions about the status of their personal data should contact the hospitals directly.
The data breach is the latest in a string of high-profile data breaches in the past year that have included well-known companies like Target, Stub Hub and Neiman Marcus.
BBB offers the following tips to consumers and businesses to avoid being victimized by identity theft:
Check your credit report regularly. Look at your credit report as often as possible for irregular activity, such as lines of credit or unpaid bills that you never authorized. If you see something out of the ordinary contact the credit reporting agency immediately.
Get your free credit report. Every American is legally entitled to one free credit report each year from each of the big three reporting agencies. Consumers can claim their yearly reports by visiting http://www.annualcreditreport.com/" target="_blank">www.annualcreditreport.com.
If you believe your identity has been compromised consider a credit freeze.A credit freeze will prevent any lender from accessing your credit reports or scores as part of a credit application. If you are a victim of ID Theft or your accounts have been compromised and you have created an Identity Theft Report you can place an extended credit alert on your credit report. An extended alert lasts for 7 years. There may be a minimal fee required.
For all businesses that collect customer information:
Take advantage of existing resources to protect your customers’ data. Check out BBB’s updated online guide http://www.bbb.org/data-security" target="_blank">Data Security – Made Simpler for free information on how to create a data security plan.
Draft an action plan. If a data breach can happen to a major corporation with significant data security measures in place, it can happen to any business. Businesses should develop a plan of action to prepare for the possibility that they might be victimized by a data breach.
For more information about identity theft and other scams consumers can visit http://www.bbb.org/tucson" target="_blank">www.bbb.org/tucson or call BBB at (520)888-5353.