By Helen Schamrai
Computer owners at Rutgers-Newark now have more to worry about than just
viruses and busted hardware.
Gabriela Kutting, associate professor of political science, reported her
laptop stolen to Rutgers police Sept. 5, 2006. The laptop contained the
social security numbers of 200 R-N students. The computer was taken from
her office in Hill Hall despite having locked her door, Kutting said.
Kutting's laptop is one of five incidents of computer theft reported so
far this academic year. [see graphic for other incidents] No reports of
stolen personal information were made to the police in past incidences,
except in Kutting's case; the computer stored her own personal
information, and also student-sensitive information, including their
personal identification numbers, police said.
Kutting said she had the social security numbers on the laptop because
she used the information to report students' grades at the end of each
semester. However, since Rutgers University began using the RUID in
place of the social security number, the stolen computer only had
information of students from past years.
There have not been any reports of identity theft from any of the
students in Kutting's class, said Det. Lt. Bradley Morgan.
In October 2006, the laptop of a graduate student in Smith Hall was
stolen from her locked office as well.
"If these were isolated incidences, then we were both unlucky. If these
things occur regularly, then I think there needs to be more widespread
knowledge and a policy on how to keep intellectual property safe,"
"If university data relating to both teaching and research get stolen
from behind locked doors on university property, then that prevents
faculty from doing their job and it becomes about intellectual property
theft as well as material theft," she said.
It took until December for her to get insurance money and a replacement
computer, "and now have a computer that is of a much lower standard than
the stolen one as the insurance takes off a deductible of 500 dollars,"
"Fortunately I had all my research work backed up at home, but obviously
not my teaching and service files. Especially all my letters of
recommendation were lost and that was a real pain."
According to the U.S. Social Security Administration, identity theft is
one of the fastest growing crimes in America. A stolen social security
number can be used to apply for credit under the victim's name and buy
things without paying bills, the government Web site stated.
Students worried about stolen identity can get a free annual credit
report from annualcreditreport.com and check to make sure their credit
is balanced, Morgan said.
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