Stolen binder creates identity theft risks

Andrea Wilson

Students expecting a stress-free spring break may have been startled by an e-mail informing them of a theft that could potentially put their identities at risk.

Residence Life officials notified students in the March 2 e-mail that a binder containing a roster of personal information of campus residents was stolen out of a locked desk in Gallen Hall. Such binders are designed to facilitate procedures when incidents and emergencies requiring the involvement of Public Safety and Residence Life occur.

“The theft of this material has been reported to Public Safety and the investigation is continuing as a high priority of the Public Safety department,” the e-mail read. 

Since the incident, binders have been replaced with modified copies that omit Social Security numbers.

At the time of the e-mail, Residence Life did not report any instances of suspected identity misuse as a result of the theft.

Identity theft can affect many aspects of a person’s life, but one of the most disturbing effects is the harm that can be done to a victim’s personal credit history. Crime rings have been known to use Social Security numbers and dates of birth to open credit card and checking accounts and file false income tax returns.

The United States Department of the Treasury provides information for individuals who are concerned about their identity being misused. The e-mail provided by the University contains contact information for students who suspect that their identity has been stolen.

Such students are advised to report their concerns to both University authorities as well as the police. Many government agencies, including the United States Secret Service, the Federal Trade Commission, the Social Security Administration and the Postal Inspectors provide information and resources for identity theft victims.

Social Security numbers were first created in 1936 for the purpose of tracking eligibility for Social Security benefits. Since that time, the number has assumed a variety of other purposes, raising questions about the risks of identity theft associated with its now widespread use.

In recent years, Social Security number use and misuse has been a topic of investigation and debate in both federal offices as well as Congress. Though legislators continue to debate the issue of Social Security number use, the fraudulent use of someone’s personal information is illegal.

Sophomore Elizabeth Lang expressed concern about the e-mail, which she worries may plant ideas in the culprit’s head.

“If they didn’t plan on using it for identity theft before, they might do it now,” she said.