RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A security alert tonight affecting millions of current and former college students. Your personal information could be in the wrong hands if you took out a federal student loan now, or even up to 15 years ago. The company that guarantees those loans, Educational Credit Management Corporation, is warning students about possible identity theft.
ECMC is like an insurance policy for lenders on federal student loans. If a student defaults, ECMC often steps in. The non-profit organization has a wide reach.
"That's all we use, are the federal student loans," said Kiesha Pope, Director of Financial Aid for J. Sergeant Reynolds Community College.
That's why it was so alarming when ECMC announced that someone stole 3.3 million files earlier this month simply by taking a portable hard drive from its Minnesota headquarters.
"If the student is attending a school that participates in the federal family education loan program, it's highly likely that ECMC was the guarantor for their loan," said Dave Hawn, Chief Business Development Officer for ECMC.
Of the 3.3 million student loans affected, approximately 628,000 are related to colleges in Virginia. About 9,200 are with schools in greater Richmond.
"So to hear that our students' identity could possibly be in jeopardy, it's alarming," Pope said.
The breach involves current students and those who took out a college loan up to 15 years ago. ECMC is working with law enforcement all the way up to the federal level.
"There's been no evidence or indication that the data that has been stolen has been misused in any way," Hawn said.
In a statement, ECMC expressed its regret for the stolen hard drive, which has not yet been recovered. Affected students are being offered free credit monitoring, and ID theft insurance.
Many of the students, who may be affected, don't know it yet. ECMC will be sending letters that should arrive within the next 10 days. If you can't wait that long, check out their web site, www.ecmc.org