Students. personal information stolen from UM-Western office

March 30, 2007

Associated Press

Between 400 and 500 current and former University of Montana-Western students are at risk of identity theft after a computer disk containing their Social Security numbers and other personal information was stolen from a professor's office this week, school officials said.

The stolen information belonged to students enrolled in the TRIO Student Support Services program, which offers financial and personal counseling and other assistance. The school is trying to notify all affected students that their personal information could be used fraudulently, Montana- Western spokesman Kent Ord said Thursday.

"There's no evidence at this point in time that anything has been used, but it pays to be careful and take precautionary measures," he said. Two professors. offices in the university's Main Hall were broken into sometime after 11:30 p.m. Monday, when the last university employee did a sweep of the building. The theft was discovered Tuesday morning, and Dillon police were notified.

Some cash, the disk, and other university and personal items were stolen, school officials and police said. The investigation is still in the "early stages," and no arrests have been made, Police Chief John Gutcheck said.

"Anybody that had been in Main Hall that night is a suspect," he said.

In addition to Social Security numbers, the disk contained students' names, birth dates, addresses and other information. University officials have sent a letter informing all affected students of the break-in and proViding information on how to safeguard against fraudulent use of the data, Chancellor Dick Storey said.

"We treat this matter very seriously and are carefully reviewing procedures to ensure that a similar incident doesn.t happen in the future," Storey said in a news release. "The university is working diligently to address problems caused by this incident and any further implications it might have on students." Montana-Western also has set up a Web site to provide additional information and assist affected students.

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