Data-rich computer stolen from Fort Monroe

November 1, 2006

By Stephanie Heinatz,0,3737661.story?coll=dp-news-local-final

A laptop containing personal information about 4,600 high school seniors from across the country was stolen last week from the U.S. Army Cadet Command's headquarters at Fort Monroe, a spokesman confirmed Tuesday.

The students are applicants for the Army's four-year ROTC college scholarship.

Their applications included their Social Security numbers, birth dates, home addresses, phone numbers, parents' names and mother's maiden names. A database containing that information was on the missing computer.

Military police are investigating the incident.

It's unlikely that anyone will be able to access the personal information to exploit it, said command spokesman Paul Kotakis.

The laptop employs a security measure called a common access card. That card is needed, along with a personal identification number, to get onto the computer.

To open the file itself, Kotakis said, another password is needed.

While there were no indications that the information had been tampered with as of Tuesday, the command has notified the 4,600 students and their families of the theft.

"This is a matter we take very seriously," Kotakis said.

With a name, birth date and Social Security number, an identity thief could obtain addresses, credit card information and access to bank accounts.

Last year, identity theft accounted for 37 percent of all fraud complaints made in the United States, according to the state attorney general's office.

Because the missing laptop was last seen at one of the workstations in the command's offices, which are in a public building on the base, "we have implemented limiting access to where the computer equipment is," Kotakis said.

A commander's inquiry - in which an officer from outside the unit comes in to review how the incident happened - is also under way.

Earlier this year, a laptop computer containing a similar database was stolen from a Department of Veterans Affairs employee, putting everyone discharged from the military since 1975 at risk of identity theft. That computer contained the names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers of more than 26 million veterans.

The computer was recovered, and it was determined that none of the information had been accessed.

Cadet Command has set up a toll-free hot line - 1-866-423-4474 - and an e-mail account for concerned students and their families who want more information. The e-mail address is mydata@

Anyone who believes he or she has become a victim of identity theft and contact a local police or sheriff's department and file a criminal complaint.

That person may then call one of the three credit bureaus to have a fraud alert placed on his or her credit report. The credit bureaus are: Equifax at 888-766-0008; Experian at 1-888-397-3742; and Trans Union at 1-800-680-7289.

Kotakis said the Army's ROTC Web site,, remains secure.

"All future applicants can continue to use that with confidence," he said.

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