Identity theft hits close to home

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By Samuel Jimenez

By Samuel Jimenez

Sen. Diane Feinstein said at a press conference in Riverside on April 2 that the Inland Empire has the second highest per capita rate of identity theft in the nation.

Here at Riverside Community College students and faculty are starting to feel the sting of identity theft as a student Nicole Ledbetter was victim to this rising phenomena.

In her case, her friend used her student I.D. number to drop her from her classes.

Ledbetter could not be reached for comment and the administrators would not say much about her case either.

RCC’s Monica Delgadillo-Flores, dean of Student Services would not say much.

“It was handled in an appropriate and timely manner,” she said.

RCC’s Police Chief Lee Wagner was an active participant in resolving the case.”We investigated it and handled it administratively,” he said.

RCC student Tomas Nunez had his identity stolen after he bought a cell phone and opened up an account with Cingular.

A month later he gets his Cingular bill along with a bill from Sprint for $250 for opening an account with them. Someone had used his name and Social Security number to open an account with Sprint.

“The Internet is not as safe as you think it is because you still got the hackers who can get past any firewall,” he said. “Even when you write it on paper you never know who is going to see it so be careful and keep it safe from friends and family.”

Colleges and universities are hotbeds of information and technology and that makes them as a big a target as banks and credit card companies.

According to Feinstein’s Web site from February 2004 thru March 2005 there were 13 major identity theft cases that breached the personal information of at least 10.6 million people.

Of those 13 cases, six were at a college or university. One million students, faculty and staff were affected by the stolen personal information at their school.

Sen. Feinstein has three bills she plans on introducing to legislation, one of which is an Identity theft notification bill called “Notification of Risk to Personal Data Act of 2005.”

The bill requires a business or government agency to notify an individual in writing or e-mail when it is believed that their personal information has been compromised.

Personal information includes a Social Security number, a driver license or state identification number, and a credit card or bank account number.

There are two exceptions to your being notified. First, is upon a written request by a law enforcement agency for purposes of a criminal investigation; second for national security reasons.

Sen. Feinstein said that this bill will set the national standard and be more rigid than California’s current identity theft notification bill.

Even though California is the first and only state to have such a bill it still has room to improve as Sen. Feinstein’s Web site shows the tougher regulations on this new bill.

The “Notification of Risk to Personal Data Act of 2005” does not include major loopholes that the current California law has, according to Sen. Feinstein’s Web site. For example, the breach of information covers crypted, uncrypted and electrical and non-electrical information.

The current California law only covers uncrypted and electronic information.

It allows individuals to put a 7-year fraud alert on their credit report, where the current California law does not mention a fraud alert.

The new bill has precise specifications for what should be included in case your information should be compromised: a description of the personal information that may have been breached, a toll-free number to learn what information and what individuals have been breached, and the phone number and address of three major credit report companies.

The current California law does not mention what should be in the notification. Civil penalties could be brought to the company if it fails to notify the individuals.

It could be penalized $1,000 per individual they fail to notify or $50,000 per day they fail to notify the individuals, according to Feinstein’s Web site.

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