Indiana hospital system notifies patients following data breach

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MERRILLVILLE, Ind. — A northwestern Indiana hospital system is warning more than 68,000 patients that their personal information, including Social Security numbers and health records, may have been exposed during a data breach.

Methodist Hospitals has been mailing letters to patients detailing the steps they can take to safeguard themselves against possible fraud, The (Northwest Indiana) Times reported Wednesday.

Methodist, which has campuses in Gary and Merrillville, said it was alerted in June to questionable activity on a staffer’s email account and that it learned in August that two employees had fallen victim to an email phishing scam in which an unauthorized user got access to their accounts, the hospital system said in a news release.

“Methodist takes this incident and the security of personal information in its care very seriously,” the Methodist statement reads. “Upon learning of this incident, Methodist immediately took steps to ensure the security of its email environment and to investigate the activity.”

The hospital system has no proof that patient information was accessed, but officials said they couldn’t rule it out. In addition to Social Security numbers and patient health records, the hackers may have accessed names, addresses, dates of birth, driver’s license/state ID/passport numbers and credit card information.

“Methodist conducted a comprehensive review to identify the individuals whose information was present in the relevant email accounts and is in the process of notifying those individuals of the incident to provide them with further information regarding this incident,” the company’s statement said. “Methodist is also reviewing its existing policies and procedures and has reported this incident to relevant state and federal regulators, as required.”

The hospital system is advising people who may have been affected by the data breach to monitor their credit reports and medical billing data for any suspicious activity.

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