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Five Hospitals In Washington And Oregon Among Victims Of Computer Hack

A national hospital chain says it suspects Chinese hackers breached its computer system earlier this year. Patients whose doctors work with any of five hospitals in the Northwest might have had financial data stolen.

The cyber-attack targeted Community Health Systems. A statement from the company released Monday said the hackers stole non-medical data including names, Social Security numbers, addresses, birthdays and telephone numbers.

That combination provides the keys for identity theft said Norma Garcia, a senior attorney at Consumers Union.

“One way to monitor whether fraudsters are trying to open new accounts in your name is by keeping close tabs on your credit reports,” Garcia said. “Any new accounts opened in your name should appear in your credit report in virtually real time."

Garcia suggested you request your free annual credit report from the three major credit bureaus in staggered fashion, maybe one every three months.

Both Garcia and a spokeswoman for Washington's Attorney General also recommended that consumers activate free fraud alerts and use other online account management tools on existing accounts at the financial institutions where they currently do business.

Community Health Systems said it is notifying affected patients by letter and will offer them identify theft protection.

Community Health Systems is the parent company of McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center in Springfield, Oregon, Deaconess Hospital in Spokane and Valley Hospital in Spokane Valley. The chain also recently acquired Yakima Regional Medical Center and Toppenish Community Hospital.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.