SPOKANE, Wash. - Data breaches seem to be becoming the norm, and there's another consumers need to be aware of. Millions of people's personal information is at risk after hackers targeted a hospital network.
Community Health Systems announced the breach yesterday in a regulatory filing. The organization operates 206 hospitals in 29 states across the country.
It says hackers in China have stolen data on 4.5 million patients. The breach happened sometime in April and June this year.
The hackers accessed patients' names, social security numbers, addresses and phone numbers.
Anyone who received treatment from a network-owned hospital in the last five years is affected. People who were referred there by a doctor are also impacted.
The large data breach puts these people at a heightened risk of identity fraud.
But, experts say there are steps to take to make sure your identity stays safe.
First, if you think your SSN has been stolen, contact the three major credit-reporting agencies. They are Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. Tell them your social has been stolen and each will give you a free copy of your credit report.
Also, ask each company to place a credit alert on your file. It lasts 90 days and they will notify you if anyone tries to open an account in your name.
Finally, report the theft to the IRS on its website.
Eventually, if your identity does end up being stolen, you can try to get your SSN changed, but it's very difficult to do so.