Colleges Nationwide Breach Students’ Sensitive Information

Since July 2009, More Than 1 Million Students, Alumni, and Faculty Have Reportedly Been Affected

TEMPE, Ariz.  (  Personally identifiable information (PII) is arguably a consumer’s most valuable possession, and LifeLock, Inc. (, an industry leader in proactive identity theft protection, aims to continuously educate consumers on the best ways to protect PII. College students nationwide can be especially vulnerable to identity theft because they often give out PII; some universities have even been known to use a student’s Social Security number (SSN) as their student identification number, sometimes displayed on a student ID card. Over the last year, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC) estimates that more than one million students, alumni and faculty have been affected by a data loss, or breach, of personal information.

Since July 2009, an estimated 72 breaches in 30 states have been reported, according to PRC. PRC’s Web site shows that in approximately 88 percent of these instances, a student or individual’s SSN was exposed. A number of the listed breaches on Privacy Rights Clearinghouse’s Web site do not specify the number of affected individuals, implying that this number could actually be higher.

“When I received a letter in the mail stating that my university had breached my personal information, I honestly didn’t know what I was supposed to do,” said Melinda Smith, an alumnus of a large university in Iowa. “I felt overwhelmed knowing that my information was out there and I had no way to know who might have their hands on it.”

Personal information can be breached in various ways, including hackers gaining unlawful access to computer files containing student information (even SSNs), or a dishonest or disgruntled university employee obtaining computer files containing sensitive records and then selling the records to savvy identity thieves.

It is recommended that individuals who have been informed of a potential breach of PII should:

  • Do your research – find out what information has been compromised. This will help you identify the risks associated and the best next steps.
  • Utilize an ID theft protection service – Services such as LifeLock can help you identify if there is a problem and protect your good name so you don’t have to worry. The advanced LifeLock Command Center™ protection suite offers members LifeLock Personal Breach Detection™ service, which actively monitors unregulated global networks for your identity information. If we find you are at risk, we’ll alert you by e-mail and help protect you against accidental personal information disclosures, not just from your personal computer, but many other computers that may store your personal information and participate in peer-to-peer file-sharing.
  • Place a fraud alert – Contact one of the three credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit. You will only need to contact one, and then that bureau will contact the other two on your behalf. With a fraud alert in place, creditors should be notified that you are concerned about identity theft when they receive a new application, helping to stop the extension of credit in your name to a thief.
  • Repeat as needed – You can renew your fraud alert every 90 days. It is important to note that you will need to renew in order for it to stay in effect. (You may also remove a fraud alert at any time.)
  • Request your free credit report – Do this as soon as possible so that you are able to see evidence of an identity theft appear on your credit report, should one exist.

Universities or colleges nationwide looking to educate faculty and students on how to better protect their personal information and help avoid PII from being breached can take advantage of the LifeLock Speakers Series program. The Speakers Series is a free educational program targeted toward schools, businesses, and other organizations. For more information or to schedule a Speakers Series presentation, please visit the Free Identity Theft Education page on

About LifeLock

LifeLock, Inc. ( is an industry leader in proactive identity theft protection. Since 2005, LifeLock has been providing consumers with the tools and confidence they need to help protect themselves from identity theft. The company has a strong focus on educating consumers and working with law enforcement and elected officials to better understand the increasing threats of identity theft. A multiple award-winning organization, LifeLock has been recognized by AlwaysOn to the Top Global Company 250 list, by Arizona Corporate Excellence as Arizona’s Fastest Growing Company, and most recently by the American Business Awards as having the Best New Product or Service of the Year for the LifeLock Identity Alert™ system.

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