Student Loan Services Company Says 16.5K Borrowers Hit With Data Breach

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 19:  University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) students and supporters protest as the UC Board of Regents meets to vote on a 32 percent tuition hike next year on November 19, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Undergraduate fees for students at the California university system would be paying about $2,500 more. It is the second day that demonstrators, including students from other UC campuses, have gather to try to dissuade the board from approving the proposed increase. Massive cuts to balance the state budget have squeezed education funds in California.   (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A student loan services company recently notified 16,500 borrowers that files containing personal data were released to a business that wasn’t authorized to receive them.

Access Group Education Lending said in a letter to those affected that the data breach happened on March 23 when one of its vendors sent out files — including borrowers’ names, driver’s license numbers and Social Security numbers — to another business. The business was not identified.

Access Group said in the letter that it learned of the release on March 28 and it was assured that the vendor who received the files deleted them and didn’t retain copies. The company did not begin notifying borrowers until three weeks later.

In response to questions from The Associated Press, Access Group said in a statement that exposure to personal information was limited and has been terminated. Those who were affected are being offered free credit monitoring services for a year.

“Access Group values the trust our student loan borrowers and co-signers have placed in us, and we hold the privacy of our customer’s personal information in the highest regard,” the company said. “We regret any concern this incident may have caused our borrowers and we feel confident that we have minimized any threat to their personal information.”

Access Group said the information was inadvertently released by Nelnet, which processes student loans for Access Group. To prevent something similar in the future, Access Group will continue to monitor its vendors and require written data transfer protocols.

A message left with a spokesman for Nelnet was not immediately returned Friday.

According to information on its website, Access Group stopped making loans in 2010, due to legislation that eliminated the federally guaranteed student loan program.

Access Group Education Lending is the servicing, loan portfolio management and default division of AccessLex Institute. AccessLex Institute is a nonprofit company, based in West Chester, Pennsylvania, that focuses on serving law students. The company works to make legal education accessible to people from all backgrounds and has programs to help law students manage their personal finances, its website says.

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