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Attorney General says Ball State is not alone in ID theft

April 10, 2015

The victims of identity theft and tax fraud at Ball State University are not alone experts say, as a trend of similar crimes sweep across the country.

The Star Press of Muncie reports that the faculty and staff at Ball State are just a fraction of the total number of university employees targeted across the country.

Officials from the Indiana Attorney General's Identity Theft Unit report that more than 200 employees at the University of Iowa, at least a dozen at Seminole State College, and at least 80 at Western Kentucky University became tax fraud prey this spring, in addition to more than 140 at Ball State.

Rich Bramer, director of the AG's Consumer Protection Division, told about 50 BSU faculty and staff on Wednesday that there is a widespread tendency toward stealing university employees' information and using it to file false tax returns and steal their refunds.

"There's clearly something going on," he said. "We will look at it. We will try to investigate. We will discuss it. We need to try to find out what's going on."

Since 2014, data breaches have occurred at more than 30 colleges and universities, including Indiana University and Butler University. Five of the breaches were larger than the Sony Pictures hack in 2014, where hackers obtained Sony employees' personal information including the names, address, social security numbers and financial information.

The health insurer Anthem Inc. has confirmed that a Feb. 4 security breach included information from Ball State employees.

Some employees found out about having their identity stolen after getting tax returns in the form of pre-paid cards that were already used. Victims of tax fraud at Ball State include an associate vice president, a dean, assistant deans, assistant department chairs and other senior officials.

Authorities haven't linked the tax return fraud to the Anthem breach.

Sources of identity theft include stolen laptops, hacked servers, lost smart phones and other portable devices, in-house identity thieves and employees with ulterior motives.

Personal information stolen from Ball State employees included Social Security numbers. In some cases the Social Security numbers of employees' children also were stolen.

BSU victims should be on guard if anyone unprompted, unknown, or not clearly known asks questions about their identity, Bramer said.

"If you're already a victim, it's very likely they will try to repeat the theft against you," he said. "Clearly, your information is on the market. If it's been sold once, it could well be sold again."

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