SCHOLARSHIP AMERICA PROVIDES NOTICE OF DATA SECURITY INCIDENT
Scholarship America, a nonprofit organization that manages scholarship and tuition assistance programs for different organizations, is providing notice to individuals impacted by the exposure of certain personal information.
What Happened? On or about April 28, 2020, Scholarship America’s internal IT security processes detected suspicious activity within our email system which triggered security protocols. Upon discovery, Scholarship America took immediate action to shut down unauthorized access and remediate the problem. Scholarship America then brought in independent IT security and forensics experts to conduct a detailed systemwide review, which identified unauthorized access to some email accounts and included an extensive inspection of information stored in each impacted account. The investigation confirmed that the impact of this incident was limited to certain Microsoft Office 365 email accounts, and that no other systems or servers within the Scholarship America IT network were impacted, including where student applications and program information are stored.
What Information Was Involved? The data that was subject to unauthorized access was different in individual cases. In general, the data contained a variety of elements such as names, mailing addresses, and telephone numbers, and, in some instances, it included protected information like Social Security numbers. Scholarship America has received no indication to-date that anyone’s sensitive information has been misused as a result of this incident.
What is Scholarship America Doing? Scholarship America takes the security of sensitive information that people entrust to us very seriously. Immediate actions were taken to secure the email system and ensure that any further suspicious activity was prevented. This included resetting passwords on all accounts system-wide as well as an activation of enhanced monitoring of IT systems. Scholarship America hired a qualified third-party IT forensic expert to conduct an exhaustive investigation of this matter. The problem has been remediated and the email and IT systems are operating securely. As part of our ongoing commitment to the security of sensitive information, Scholarship America is working to implement additional safeguards and security measures to enhance the privacy and security of information in our systems. In addition, we are working with law enforcement and sharing information for their investigation.
Notification. Scholarship America is mailing letters to impacted individuals and is providing them with information about how to protect their credit and identity. We are also distributing a press release to notify media of this incident, and informing state regulators as required. Anyone with questions about this incident can submit them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fraud Prevention Tips. Scholarship America encourages affected individuals to remain vigilant against incidents of identity theft and fraud and to seek to protect against possible identity theft or other financial loss by regularly reviewing their financial account statements, credit reports, and explanations of benefits for suspicious activity.
STEPS YOU CAN TAKE TO PROTECT YOUR INFORMATION
The following information is provided in accordance with certain state legal requirements.
Monitor Your Accounts
Credit Reports. We encourage you to remain vigilant against incidents of identity theft and fraud by reviewing your account statements, explanation of benefits, and monitoring your free credit reports for suspicious activity and to detect errors. Under U.S. law, you are entitled to one free credit report annually from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus. To order your free credit report, visit www.annualcreditreport.com or call, toll-free, 1-877-322-8228. You may also contact the three major credit bureaus directly to request a free copy of your credit report.
Fraud Alerts. At no charge, you can also have these credit bureaus place a “fraud alert” on your file that alerts creditors to take additional steps to verify your identity prior to granting credit in your name. Note, however, that because it tells creditors to follow certain procedures to protect you, it may also delay your ability to obtain credit while the agency verifies your identity. As soon as one credit bureau confirms your fraud alert, the others are notified to place fraud alerts on your file. Should you wish to place a fraud alert, or should you have any questions regarding your credit report, please contact any one of the agencies listed below:
P.O. Box 105069 Atlanta, GA 30348 1-800-525-6285
P.O. Box 2002 Allen, TX 75013 1-888-397-3742
P.O. Box 2000 Chester, PA 19016 1-800-680-7289
Security Freeze. You may also place a security freeze on your credit reports. A security freeze prohibits a credit bureau from releasing any information from a consumer’s credit report without the consumer’s written authorization. However, please be advised that placing a security freeze on your credit report may delay, interfere with, or prevent the timely approval of any requests you make for new loans, credit mortgages, employment, housing, or other services. If you have been a victim of identity theft and you provide the credit bureau with a valid police report, it cannot charge you to place, lift, or remove a security freeze. In all other cases, a credit bureau may charge you a fee to place, temporarily lift, or permanently remove a security freeze. Fees vary based on where you live, but commonly range from $3 to $15. You will need to place a security freeze separately with each of the three major credit bureaus listed above if you wish to place a freeze on all of your credit files. In order to request a security freeze, you will need to supply your full name, address, date of birth, Social Security number, current address, all addresses for up to five previous years, email address, a copy of your state identification card or driver’s license, and a copy of a utility bill, bank or insurance statement, or other statement proving residence. To find out more on how to place a security freeze, you can use the following contact information:
Equifax Security Freeze
P.O. Box 105788 Atlanta, GA 30348 1-800-685-1111
Experian Security Freeze
P.O. Box 9554 Allen, TX 75013 1-888-397-3742
P.O. Box 2000 Chester, PA 19016 1-888-909-8872
Additional Information. You can further educate yourself regarding identity theft, security freezes, fraud alerts, and the steps you can take to protect yourself against identity theft and fraud by contacting the Federal Trade Commission or your state Attorney General. The Federal Trade Commission can be reached at: 600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20580; www.identitytheft.gov; 1-877-ID-THEFT (1-877-438-4338); and TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The Federal Trade Commission encourages those who discover that their information has been misused to file a complaint with them. Instances of known or suspected identity theft should be promptly reported to law enforcement, the Federal Trade Commission, and your state Attorney General. You have the right to file a police report if you ever experience identity theft or fraud. Please note that in order to file a crime report or incident report with law enforcement for identity theft, you will likely need to provide some kind of proof that you have been a victim. This notice has not been delayed as the result of a law enforcement investigation.
For Maryland residents, the Attorney General can be reached at: 200 St. Paul Place, 16th Floor, Baltimore, MD 21202; 1-888-743-0023; and www.oag.state.md.us.
For North Carolina residents, the Attorney General can be contacted by mail at 9001 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-9001; toll-free at 1-877-566-7226; by phone at 1-919-716- 6400; and online at www.ncdoj.gov.