Access Group Education Lending, a student loan services company, sent out a letter recently to 16,500 of its borrowers that their personal information was inadvertently given to another business that had no authorization to view the information. CBS News reported that some of the information accidentally released by Nelnet, the company that handles student loan processing for Access Group, included names of borrowers, their driver’s license numbers, and Social Security numbers.
What Does That Mean for Borrowers?
Although the data leak occurred on March 23, the company didn’t learn about it until five days later. After checking into the situation, Access Group was told that the business didn’t keep copies of the information and it was deleted electronically as well. But borrowers weren’t notified until three weeks after that.
Access Group is providing free credit monitoring for a year to any borrowers who are interested in watching their activity closely for signs of fraud that might result from this mistake. But the company feels it has contained the leak.
Both Nelnet and Access Group have said they don’t believe any of the information will be used inappropriately, and Nelnet said the data went through an encrypted channel when it was transferred.
How Can Borrowers Protect Themselves?
With so many data security breaches in the news in the past couple of years, it is becoming increasingly important for consumers and borrowers to learn how to protect themselves and their credit from fraud.
One of the best ways to stay on top of any fraud attempts is for people to regularly check their credit reports – at least once a year, but ideally every few months. They should report any signs of fraud and make sure their credit reports reflect the correction.
Those who are single will automatically know if they see charges or an account they aren’t familiar with, but it can be trickier for married couples – especially married couples who aren’t forthright about their finances. Married couples should have a list of all the accounts that are open so they can check them regularly for any possible fraud attempts.
While everyone knows to check for new accounts they aren’t familiar with, they should also keep a close eye on existing accounts. If there are any charges a borrower isn’t familiar with, they should contact that company immediately. If a person believes their credit card has been compromised, they should ask for a new credit card number.
Those who hear about any data breaches should change their online passwords if they have one set up for that account. They can also place a fraud alert on their credit reports to be notified of any attempts to open new accounts. Or, placing a freeze on credit reports can stop credit inquiries, preventing most types of accounts from being opened.
Those who don’t want to monitor their own credit and accounts can sign up for a credit monitoring service. That service will send an alert to their customer if anything new happens to their credit, whether it’s an unpaid bill they might have forgotten to send or a new account that was opened in their name.
Author: Andrew Rombach
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