CSS computer loss prompts warning about potential identity theft

January 27, 2006


The College of St. Scholastica is warning about 12,000 current and former students that they could be the victims of identity theft.

The warning comes after the theft and recovery of a computer that once contained data files with names and Social Security numbers.

The college notified students, faculty and staff members of the theft via e-mail Friday morning. It also mailed letters to past students.

"We have no evidence that would lead us to believe any personal information was retrieved or used inappropriately," Patrick Flattery, vice president for finance, wrote in the letter. "However, between the time of the theft and the computer's recovery, an unauthorized individual could have accessed your personal information."

The computer was taken from a locked office in the college's Information Technology Department on or shortly before Dec. 24. It was recovered on Dec. 29.

"A suspect has admitted to the theft and denies retrieving or making use of any personal data on the computer," college spokesman Bob Ashenmacher said. "However, it's possible someone could have accessed the information."

As a precaution, the college is urging people to obtain copies of their credit reports and confirm that no improper activity is taking place. The college also suggests people consult the Federal Trade Commission's identity theft Web site.

"We regret this possible breach of confidentiality," Ashenmacher said. "We take very seriously our obligation to safeguard personal information. We continually examine and update our efforts to prevent electronic intrusion or physical theft of confidential information. It's an ongoing challenge."

The college filed a complaint over the theft with the Duluth Police Department, which is investigating the matter, Ashenmacher said.

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