Loomis Chaffee grads warned about potential identity theft after thieves steal school computer equipment

August 23, 2007

By James White, Journal Inquirer


A burglary earlier this month at the Loomis Chaffee School has potentially left the personal information, including Social Security numbers, of several hundred past students vulnerable, officials say.

The theft occurred on Aug. 2 in the school's Information Technology Department, with someone removing "thousands of dollars worth" of computer equipment, said Capt. Thomas LePore of the Windsor Police Department.

No other rooms in the school were broken into, LePore said.

Loomis Chaffee is a private school for grades 9 through 12 at 4 Bachelder Road.

When reached at the school this week Headmaster Russel H. Weigel said that due to the ongoing police investigation into the burglary he could not comment on what equipment was taken or what type of information may have been compromised.

However, Weigel did comment on that in an Aug. 3 letter he sent to Loomis Chaffee graduates, which was obtained by the Journal Inquirer.

In the letter, Weigel wrote that he was contacting the former students because of "a potential problem involving identity theft."

He wrote that "valuable computer equipment, including two large storage devices" were stolen during a nighttime burglary from the locked IT facility on campus.

Wiegel wrote that the stolen storage devices contained information about some recent graduates of the school, including their names, Social Security numbers, and contact information from their days as students at the school.

Wiegel's letter does not say whether the personal information pertaining to current students also might have been stolen.

LePore said today that he does not know if current students were also affected. He did say that anyone potentially affected has been notified by letter by the school.

In his letter to Loomis Chaffee graduates, Weigel suggested that those whose information might have been compromised place a fraud alert on their credit files. A fraud alert tells creditors to contact an individual before they open new accounts.

LePore said that the danger presented by the stolen equipment was roughly equivalent to "losing your wallet."

LePore reminded students that, as always, they should vigilantly check accounts for any unusual activity. In his letter, Weigel wrote that the computer equipment was likely stolen for its intrinsic value, and not targeted for any information it may have contained about students.

"It was the interpretation of the police and our IT Department that the equipment was stolen because it was valuable," Wiegel said, adding that data on the school's computers is password-protected and encrypted.

"We have no reason to believe that the files containing your personal information have been discovered and/or misused by the perpetrators," Wiegel wrote in the letter to graduates.

However, in an Aug. 3 e-mail Wiegel sent to school staff, he wrote that while "much of the date is encrypted or password-protected, we cannot be certain that some data was not compromised by this theft."

He warned the staff that if their school computer was backed up by the IT Department, the information on that computer "could be compromised." He assured the staff, however, that the school's personnel files, including the staffers' Social Security numbers, "are not involved."

In the aftermath of the burglary, Loomis Chaffee was to review its security standards with the help of outside experts, Weigel wrote.

Loomis Chaffee has been helpful to the investigation, and taken the appropriate steps to inform possible victims, LePore said, describing the school as "pro-active."

The Police Department is pursuing leads based on physical evidence recovered, and the investigation into the burglary remains ongoing, LePore said.

Any person with information regarding the case is encouraged to contact Detective Michele Neary, 688-4545, ext. 522.

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