Data stolen from firm that handles student loans in Virginia

By Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 27, 2010

Personal information on 3.3 million people, many from the Washington region, has been stolen from a firm that guarantees student loans, authorities said.

The theft occurred last weekend at the St. Paul, Minn., headquarters of Educational Credit Management, a nonprofit company that is designated as the loan guaranty agency in Virginia and two other states. It also guarantees student loans nationally.

The number of borrowers affected in Virginia is 628,038; in Maryland, 76,939; and in the District, 17,553, Paul Kelash, a spokesman for ECMC, said Friday night by e-mail.

Although ECMC is designated as the guaranty agency for Virginia, the designation is nominal, said Dave Hawn, another ECMC spokesman. He said the number of Virginia loans is more a reflection of a long history there.

Information that was taken included names, addresses, birth dates and Social Security numbers, ECMC said in a news release. It said no bank or other financial account information was taken.

"This is old-fashioned" theft, rather than computer hacking, Kelash said in an interview. The news release said the theft involved "portable media with personally identifiable information." Kelash declined to give details.

So far, he said, there has been no indication of any data misuse.

In its release, the company said it has arranged with Experian, a national credit protection agency, to provide those affected "with a full suite of credit monitoring and protection services at no charge."

It said victims will hear from ECMC soon in a letter detailing how to sign up for free credit monitoring and notification and take other protective steps.

For more information, people can visit http://www.ecmc.org, which has links to help people determine if they were affected.

People also can call ECMC at 877-449-3568. The call center is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.


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