ID theft hits Georgia Southern students

April 28, 2005

Associated Press

STATESBORO - Hackers broke into a Georgia Southern University server that contained thousands of credit card and Social Security numbers collected over more than three years.

The Saturday breach puts anyone who made a purchase at the university bookstores between Jan. 1, 2002, and April 26 of this year at risk of identity theft or unauthorized credit card usage, the university said Wednesday.

Included are those who made purchases at the store's campus and stadium locations, as well as on the Web site. Also, GSU students who received a bookstore credit through their scholarship or financial aid between fall 2003 and spring 2005 semesters are at risk.

Rosemary Carter, university spokeswoman, would not elaborate on specifics, including how the hackers got into the store's system, but said the registration, admission and athletic ticket sites were not affected. It is not certain how much information was stolen.

"But we do know it's a very high number. That's why we want to cast a net as wide as possible to let people know and let them take the necessary steps to protect themselves," Carter said. "We don't know if anything has been acquired, but we just can't wait."

At the main university bookstore Wednesday, students looking to sell or buy textbooks were met with a sign informing them that only cash and checks were being accepted because of the intrusion.

GSU student Gillian Harbin said the breach concerned her, but she will continue using the store because there is no other place to purchase her textbooks.

School officials urged anyone whose information was stolen to immediately call their bank and one of the three credit reporting agencies so a fraud alert can be placed on their credit files.

University officials have notified Visa and MasterCard of the breach, and e-mail alerts were sent to students and alumni across the nation, according to a university press release.

Georgia Southern joins the University of California-Davis, Northwestern University, Chico State University and the University of California-Berkeley, all of which have had breaches exposing students' information this year.

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