11,000 CCSF Students At Risk For ID Theft

February 15, 2007


Eleven-thousand past and possibly current students at City College of San Francisco have had their names and social security numbers posted on the internet for the past seven years. The school is scrambling to warn the students to protect themselves from identity theft.

City College Chancellor Philip Day has sent out letters to 11,000 students to explain the mistake. Their names, grades and social security numbers were posted on an unprotected site after summer session in 1999. This allowed an outside vendor to prepare transcripts. But the site was never taken down.

Philip Day, Jr., City College Chancellor: "We feel very, very bad about it, but it was a classic case of human error of just forgetting that the file was out there."

A former student discovered the mistake last week when she Googled her name and discovered her social security number was online.

Philip Day, Jr., City College Chancellor: "We're going through and doing a second check, an audit if you will, of exactly what it is that we've got, how we designed this firewall, what the specifications were, is it working, has there been any breaches -- and the answer to that has been no."

City College stopped using social security numbers in 2002, replacing them with a student I.D. number. However, data security experts say identity theft remains a possibility.

Phil Zimmermann, Data Security Consultant: "It's used by the Russian mafia and by other organized crime elements to take out loans and credit cards in your name and to rob your bank account."

State law requires disclosure when computer-stored personal information is, or can be, accessed. City College is going one step further, offering students an 800 number if they have questions.

Okan Pekgil, City College student: "Some people, they'll really exploit the fact that they have all of your information. You've got to be careful."

The employee responsible for posting the sensitive information on the internet still works here. He's described as one of city college's best employees. He will not be disciplined.

The students are advised to consider placing a fraud alert on their consumer credit file. The school has created a Web site (www.ccsf.edu/securityalert) where students can get more information. Information can also be obtained through a toll-free number at 1-800-436-0108.

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