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Hackers steal 4.5 million patient hospital records

Hackers steal 4.5 million patient hospital records
photo courtesy of SHUTTERSTOCK

The epidemic of massive data breaches is showing no signs of letting up. Instead of retail and tech companies, however, this time hackers have hit one of the largest hospital groups in the country.

Hackers got into the hospital's systems and installed a virus that stole upwards of 4.5 million patient records. The information stolen includes names, Social Security numbers, patients' home addresses, birthdays and telephone numbers.

So far it seems hackers didn't get medical history information or credit card numbers. Still, that's a small comfort given the damage they can do with what they did get.

The hospital group in question is Community Health Systems, which has 206 branches in 28 states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.

If you've been there in the past five years, or were referred there - even if you didn't go - your information could be in hacker hands. At this point it looks like the hackers are based in China given their methods.

CHS says it is notifying affected customers and will be providing free credit monitoring services, but you shouldn't wait. The hackers are probably going to sell your information online, which means criminals around the world could start using it any day now.

Here are some steps you need to take right away to protect yourself.

Watch out for scams

Scammers are going to have a field day with so many names, physical addresses and phone numbers. You can expect an increase in calls and mail that are meant to trick you into giving up money and information.

You might get a variation of the old phone tech support scam - learn how to spot and avoid it. You might start getting mail claiming you've won prizes and just need to pay a fee to get them. Maybe someone will even show up at your house as a repairman or solicitor.

So, keep an extra careful watch and avoid anything suspicious.

Watch your credit

With your name, SSN, birth date, address and phone number out there, it won't be hard for someone to impersonate you. That's most of the information they need to take out a loan, open a new credit card or apply for a mortgage.

Keep an eye on your credit report for suspicious activity so you can take action fast. Learn how to get regular credit reports for free.


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