Loss Of HCC Worker's Laptop Spurs ID Theft Warning

July 24, 2008

By Valerie Kalfrin, The Tampa Tribune


Hillsborough Community College warned its roughly 2,000 employees on Wednesday to monitor their bank accounts because an HCC programmer's laptop was stolen from a hotel parking lot in Georgia.

The college also is looking into acquiring technology that will allow workers to remotely locate laptops and to encrypt computers or disks. In addition, it stressed to employees who use laptops to use extra caution when securing the devices, spokeswoman Ashley Carl said today.

The risk of employees' personal information being used is slim. The programmer had been working on a payroll project for a group of employees using their names, bank-routing numbers, retirement information and Social Security numbers, Carl said.

However, the programmer had deleted all files related to the project before the theft. The programmer also emptied the trash on the desktop, and the computer is password-protected, Carl said.

College officials thought it prudent to warn employees anyway, given the possibility that someone with sophisticated computer experience could retrieve the deleted data.

"You know how sophisticated hackers can be," Carl said.

The programmer had been moving her family to Florida from Michigan when the Dell laptop was stolen from her car in Henry County, Ga., on Monday, Carl said. She also lost a cell phone and a Global Positioning System.

The college's information-technology employees work remotely and carry laptops at all times, Carl said.

There was no intentional negligence on this programmer's part that requires discipline, Carl said.

In the e-mail warning issued Wednesday, R. Bruce Judd, the college's vice president of information technology, advised employees to contact their banks and the college about any unusual activity in their accounts.

"You are receiving this notification to alert you to the fact that your personal information may be compromised and you should monitor the activity in the account into which you have your payroll check deposited," the message states. "Also, please remain cognizant of any evidence that may indicate that your identity has been stolen."

The e-mail included an attachment of suggestions from the Federal Trade Commission about handling identity theft. These include closing the affected accounts and notifying a credit reporting bureau and police.

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