Social Security Numbers Exposed in CCSU Letters

February 7, 2007

By Melissa Traynor

Over the past week approximately 750 CCSU students have received mail from the Bursar's office that revealed their social security numbers in the name and address window of the envelopes. The letters were folded incorrectly by a malfunctioning machine in the office.

The letters mailed were IRS 1098T forms, which are student tuition statements that were meant to be mailed out by January 31. Last Monday, during the preparation of the first batch of 2,300 letters which were being folded by the machine, all were folded incorrectly, but the office was able to catch about 1550 letters and correct them before they were mailed out.

Once Bursar employees were able to trace the origin of the problem, the machine was recalibrated and was able to fold the remainder of the entire set of 17,000 letters correctly.

Mark McLaughlin, the Assistant Vice President of the Marketing and Communications department, is helping to handle the situation, along with Bursar Elizabeth Fanguillo.

"As soon as we learned about this, we were concerned about the protection of the students' identities," McLaughlin said.

Joseph Mendyka, a senior at CCSU, was a recipient of one of the exposed letters.

"I got the letter and looked down and just noticed that there was other information on the envelope, but I didn.t realize that it was my social security number until I saw the story on the news Thursday night," Mendyka said.

"I'm a little concerned because I'm about to graduate and I will be looking at apartments and applying for credit cards. It's just blatant disregard for identity security," he added.

The Bursar's Office also sent out a follow- up letter to apology for the folding mistakes.

McLaughlin explained, "We immediately sent out a letter addressed to those 750 students expressing our deep regret. We suggested that students take steps to protect themselves by monitoring their financial records. Also if they recognize anything suspicious, they should report them to credit reporting agencies."

The university suggests that students contact agencies such as Equifax, Experian and TransUnion and request that a fraud alert be placed on their files, after which the company will send them a free copy of their credit report, according to the follow-up letter.

In regards to complaints filed, "only two or three students have called in," McLaughlin said.

Tiffany Jones, a student at CCSU, offered her opinion.

"If my social security number was shown and something happened, I'd definitely hold the school liable," she said.

The university wrote in its follow-up letter, "While there is no indication that this information has been or will be used for identity theft purposes, we are sending this notification to you so that you may take steps you deem appropriate" in order to protect yourself.

"That's dangerous for those identities," Jones said. "You don't know how many hands those letters passed through and anyone could have written down names, addresses and social security numbers."

"Even if people saw the social security numbers and didn't know who [the students] are, that's just not right," said Jessica Shepherd, a CCSU student.

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