Cause of mass identity theft still unknown

Stephanie Markham, Editor-in-Chief

Eastern is now offering one year of free identity protection for its current and former employees after an internal investigation found no answers as to why roughly 100 people associated with the university had their identities stolen in April.

Paul McCann, the interim vice president for business affairs, said his office looked through transaction journals from Banner, Eastern’s accounting system, and found no indication that information was taken from there.

He said they were looking for unusual places of access or people who would have repeatedly tried to gain access to the network.

“I can’t say that (the investigation) went well because I would like an answer to what actually happened, but we have been unable to find anything at this point,”

McCann said.

He said most of the data within Banner is encrypted, so the stolen information is not likely to have come from there.

Encrypted data is encoded so that only the sender and the intended recipient can read the message.

According to U.S. News & World Report, thieves only need someone’s name, Social Security number and date of birth to file a tax return, and they can attempt to claim a refund with falsified W-2 information.

Eastern contracted with the information services company Experian to provide ProtectMyID memberships to its employees and annuitants free for one year.

“We were very concerned about our employees,” McCann said.

McCann said the service provides members with information regarding their credit, such as a credit report or notification if anyone tries to access their credit records.

“With your involvement, then you can stop somebody accessing your credit records,” he said. “Getting a loan on your account would be an example.”

He said the cost of offering the service will depend on how many people sign up, but each membership is about $20 for the year.

Those who wish to sign up must do so online by Aug. 31, and members will have to pay to renew the service after one year.

McCann said all the people who reported tax fraud to his office were able to successfully file their tax returns by filling out a form manually.

“They still accept your money,” he said.

The only common tie McCann said he has been able to find among those who reported fraud is that they were associated with the university. Most were currently employed to Eastern, and those who were not had received paychecks from Eastern within the past few years.

McCann said the credit monitoring service will stop outsiders from gaining access to employees’ personal information, but until he finds the source of the problem he has no way of stopping it from happening again.

“It does make you wonder what has happened,” he said.

Stephanie Markham can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].