Home > News > Data Breach at UC Berkeley Exposes SSNs & Bank Info

Comments 0 Comments

A data breach at the University of California, Berkeley exposed some Social Security and bank account numbers of current and former students, in addition to some of their family members, according to an April 30 announcement from the school. There have not yet been signs of anyone abusing the data, the announcement said.

The servers storing the sensitive information were accessed by an unauthorized party in December 2014 and again in February 2015, investigators found. University officials learned of the breach March 14 and took the server offline. The server stored family financial information submitted by students.

Compared with other breaches that have been in the news, this affected a relatively small group of people: The university sent letters to those affected, which included about 260 undergraduate and former students, as well as about 290 parents or relatives of the notified students. UC Berkeley, a public research university, has an enrollment of roughly 36,200. Still, the kind of information exposed in this breach makes this a big deal, especially if you’re among that small group of individuals.

A Social Security number can be used to commit all sorts of fraud, which puts the victims’ personal and financial well-being at risk. A thief can open fake credit accounts and trash the victim’s credit, or the thief could commit crimes using the victim’s identity. Perhaps even worse, a thief could commit medical identity theft, which could cause inaccuracies in a person’s medical files or deplete someone’s health care resources. The longer such activity goes undetected, the more damaging it can be.

“The institutions of higher learning are under assault — look at University of Texas, Stanford, Rutgers. That’s because the universities are historically open environments, and open environments create vulnerabilities,” said Adam Levin, privacy expert, and chairman and founder of Credit.com. “They really have their work cut out for them when it comes to securing their data.”

People affected by the UC Berkeley breach will receive a year of free credit monitoring, as well as general information about how to get their free annual credit reports and how to contact the major credit reporting agencies in the event of fraud, said Janet Gilmore, UC Berkeley’s director of strategic communications. As of May 1, the university had no knowledge of fraud related to the breach, Gilmore told Credit.com.

All consumers should keep a close eye on their finances and credit, but it’s especially important to do it if your personal information has been compromised. Credit scores are a great fraud-detection resource, because any unexpected major changes to your score can tip you off to a potential problem, and should prompt you to check your credit reports and financial statements for fraudulent purchases or accounts. You can see two of your credit scores every month for free on Credit.com.

More on Identity Theft:

Image: Falcorian via Wikimedia Commons

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Credit.com receives compensation for the financial products and services advertised on this site if our users apply for and sign up for any of them.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team