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In January, hackers gained access to personal information of more than 2,000 current and former employees and students at the University of Chicago Department of Medicine, the university confirmed March 9 in an email statement to Credit.com. The university disclosed the breach to victims in a letter dated Feb. 19, saying the compromised database included victims’ names, Social Security numbers and marital status, among other information.

“The University is committed to protecting the confidentiality of all faculty, staff, students, patients and other affiliates and takes attacks on its systems seriously. It has taken steps to prevent similar problems from happening again,” the emailed statement reads.

The University of Chicago learned of the breach on Jan. 22 and took routine actions such as restricting access to the database and calling on forensics experts to analyze the nature of the attack. The investigation revealed that the hacker accessed records of 2,024 people currently or formerly associated with the medicine department, including names, Social Security numbers, employee identification numbers, employee usernames, email addresses, sex and marital status.

Those data points make it easy for an identity thief to commit various kinds of fraud, including opening financial accounts in a victim’s name. In light of that, the University of Chicago is offering victims a year of free credit monitoring through Experian’s ProtectMyID — that’s pretty much standard procedure when it comes to data breaches these days — but victims should know their risk of fraud does not expire when their credit monitoring does.

All consumers, whether they’ve yet been a victim of massive data breaches or not, should closely review their financial accounts and credit reports for signs of identity theft, because it can have a serious, long-term impact on their finances. Identity theft can damage your credit standing for years (it depends how long it went on and how long it takes to resolve it), potentially costing you thousands of dollars in higher interest rates or limited access to consumer products reliant on your credit standing. Regularly reviewing your free annual credit reports will help you quickly find and address any identity theft issues you may encounter. You can get a free credit report summary every month on Credit.com to spot signs of identity theft as well.

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