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Millions of health systems patients’ information compromised

Attorney General Lisa Madigan issued an alert to a data breach reported by Community Health Systems Inc. that compromised personal information of more than 264,000 Illinois residents and at least 4.5 million patients nationwide.

Madigan said patients who have received services from physicians affiliated with the Tennessee-based Community Health Systems in the last five years should review their credit reports for unauthorized charges. Patients can also sign up for free credit monitoring being offered by the company in response to the breach.

“Identity theft is the most prevalent financial scam hitting people today,” said Madigan. “Patients of physician offices affiliated with Community Health Systems should monitor their credit reports and bank and credit card accounts for unauthorized accounts and charges and report them immediately to minimize potential damage from this data breach.”

Community Health Systems publicly reported a data breach last month, confirming its computer network was the target of an external cyber-attack in April and June 2014, by which hackers gained access to patient names, addresses, birthdates, telephone numbers and social security numbers. The company has confirmed the stolen data did not include patient credit card, medical or clinical information, and that the breach only affected its affiliated physician practices, not its hospitals.

The company recently sent letters to individuals whose information was compromised to inform them of the cyber-attack and the steps they can take to enroll in free identity theft protection and credit monitoring services. Community Health Systems will assist patients if they become a victim of identity theft and work to provide restoration services free of charge.

Madigan noted that credit monitoring services generally will notify consumers if new accounts are opened in their names but will not detect unauthorized charges on existing accounts. She said Illinois residents should continue to monitor their credit independently, including requesting their credit reports from each of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies on a rolling basis. Consumers are entitled to one free credit report from each of the three agencies per year. By systematically monitoring credit reports and bank and credit accounts, consumers can better protect themselves in the wake of such data breaches.

Consumers with questions or concerns about the breach are encouraged to contact the company toll-free at 1-855-205-6951. Illinois residents can also contact Madigan’s Identity Theft Hotline at 1-866-999-5630 for questions or one-on-one assistance if you have been a victim of identity theft. Madigan’s Identity Theft Unit has helped over 35,000 victims remove over $26 million in fraudulent charges from their credit.

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