Computers stolen from college financial aid office

January 26, 2007

By Michael Alexander

Two computers stolen from Vanguard University earlier this month have put more than 5,000 financial aid applicants at risk for identity theft, authorities said today.

On Jan. 16, school employees discovered someone had taken the computers from the school's financial aid office over the Martin Luther King weekend. Initially university officials had no idea the computers contained sensitive data, said Ed Westbrook, the school's vice president of student affairs.

"At first we thought it was just computer theft," he said. "But when we had the IT [information technology] people there trying to get logged in and determine what was lost, they said we had a problem."

University officials did not believe the computers kept financial aid data on their hard drives, Westbrook said. But last Friday they learned apparently the machines stored that information, including social security numbers, dates of birth, phone numbers, driver's license numbers and lists of assets.

"When it was passing through that computer it remained on that computer even though we couldn't see it on the hard drive," he said. "If they're sophisticated they might be able to hack into this thing."

Anyone who applied for financial aid at Vanguard University for the 2005-2006 or 2006-2007 school years is now at risk, he said. The 5,105 affected include even prospective students who may not have enrolled at Vanguard. Anyone applying now, however, is safe.

The university is sending out a letter to anyone possibly affected, both the students and all parents with possibly compromised information, according to a news release. The university has set up a website for possible victims,, as well as a toll-free number, (800) 920-7312.

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