USCB warns alumni that their personal info might have been stolen with laptop

Letters were sent last week to more than 480 former University of South Carolina Beaufort students whose personal information might have been on a school-owned laptop stolen last month in the Atlanta area.

University officials say the computer, which belonged to the Office of Housing and Residence Life, was stolen Feb. 6 from a staff member working from a relative's home in the Atlanta area. The crime still is being investigated by the Atlanta Police Department, as well as the university's Division of Law Enforcement and Safety, said Deborah Reynolds, USCB spokeswoman.

Immediately after the theft, the university's Office of Information Technology began trying to determine what student information, if any, was on the computer, so it could alert those affected, said Eddie King, USCB's chief information officer.

"We worked really hard to verify what information might have been on that drive," King said. "It took us a long time, but we tried to re-create the information that could have been on it and decided that we'd rather play it safe than sorry."

On March 17, the university sent letters to 488 former students enrolled at the school between 2005 and 2006 to warn them their names and Social Security numbers were among the data once stored on the stolen computer's hard drive. The letter said the university had no reason to believe the students' personal information had been accessed but urged that they contact one of the nation's three credit bureaus to have an Initial Fraud Alert placed on their credit reports.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, an Initial Fraud Alert lasts up to 90 days and requires creditors to contact the applicant before approving a new line of credit, to prevent a would-be identity thief from opening accounts in someone else's name.

"We have not had anyone report any unusual activity regarding their personal information," Reynolds said.