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June 19, 2009

New article about identity theft

Valerie Myers of the Erie-Times News wrote the following article about an identity theft that occurred apparently due to a security breach at Penn State Behrend.

"The first indication that Mark Klingman's identity had been stolen was a call from a collection agency last week. The agency asked for payment of $655 owed to AT&T Wireless on an account opened in Klingman's name, with his Social Security number, for a billing address in upstate New York.

Klingman, 23, of Cranberry Township, near Butler, didn't open the account. He has since discovered a second unauthorized account opened in his name, for a Capital One credit card. The 2007 Penn State Behrend graduate believes that both accounts were opened by someone who stole his name and Social Security number from a Behrend computer.

College officials announced in April that a computer storing the Social Security numbers of almost 11,000 graduates and other former students had been breached.The breach occurred in January. Fraudulent accounts were opened in Klingman's name in March. 'I can't be sure that it happened at Behrend,' Klingman, a human resources consultant, said. 'Behrend can't be sure that it didn't. The time frame makes me believe that it did happen there.'

Klingman acknowledges that the timing may be coincidental. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that 9 million Americans, or 3 percent of the population, are victims of identity theft each year. Klingman is the only person potentially affected by the breach to report identity theft to the college, said Bill Gonda, Behrend director of marketing communications. 'We've heard from surprisingly few alumni, about 30, and the rest of those had questions about the nature of the incident,' Gonda said.

Each person whose Social Security number was stored in the Behrend computer was sent information about the breach in April and was encouraged to keep an eye out for potential fraud, Gonda said. Behrend used Social Security numbers as student identification numbers before 2005. School technology experts do not believe that those numbers or any other information was downloaded from the breached computer.

'All of the forensics done on it suggested that data did not leave it. But we couldn't prove that it didn't,' Gonda said. The computer was infected with malicious software, probably when a user clicked on an e-mail, Gonda said earlier this spring. The infection was detected by university software and shut down.

Klingman has reported the fraudulent accounts opened in his name to the companies involved, to credit reporting bureaus, to the FTC and to Cranberry Township police. AT&T has closed the account in his name and taken it off his credit report. Klingman is negotiating for similar resolution of the Capital One account opened in his name and maxed out at $700.

'I refuse to pay for something I don't owe,' he said. Klingman has posted his travails on a Behrend alumni site on Facebook and encourages others whose Social Security numbers could have been stolen to continue to check their credit reports. 'There's a good chance that more people than me are having problems,' he said."

I think he's right, there are more people having the same problems. Thanks, Ms. Myers, for helping to shed light on the problem of identity theft.

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