Identity theft hits student’s account

Tracy Warner

When a security breach of campus system records occurred June 5 on the Western Illinois University campus, thousands of Western students and alumni received letters urging them to take steps to protect themselves from identity theft or other security-related issues. One Western student who took the university’s advice and added the fraud monitoring option to his credit card now said Citibank Identity Theft Solutions notified him that a large sum of money was charged on his account.

“It could have ruined my credit,” said Brett Rappenecker, senior athletic training major. “If people don’t have the protection, then they will never get a notice and they will never know until it’s too late.”

It is not confirmed that this incident is tied to the university security breach.

Rappenecker said his mother called him on Aug. 29 to tell him that a letter from Identity Monitoring from Citibank had arrived by overnight delivery. The letter that he got from the Security Monitoring Department stated that a specific company (who Rappenecker declined to identify) in Aurora, Colo., had opened a separate account using his account number and had charged $2,750 in miscellaneous items.

“You don’t know if it’s bogus or if it’s a real company,” Rappenecker said. “It could be someone doing something like this right in their own living room, or it could be a team of three people, you just never know.”

The account number that was compromised was from a credit card that Rappenecker said he used on the Western campus. He said that he put money on the card and used it whenever he needed to buy food or pay extra bills.

John Maguire, University Relations vice president, said the university does not know of any student who has had information breached.

Because of his quick thinking back in June, Rappenecker will not be responsible for the charges to his credit card, and he said that now his account is more secure than ever.

“I’m protected,” Rappenecker said. “They put a notice in my file that there has been a fraud and now I have increased security for seven years.”

Rappenecker must now file a police report so there is a formal document on file. Once that is done, he said the next step is getting the information to the credit card company so they can put it in his file.

While what happened to Rappenecker may seem like an isolated incident, he said that it is not because he knows a female athletic training major at Western who has experienced a similar situation.

If other students want to avoid what happened to Rappenecker, he said they should definitely add the fraud monitoring option to their credit cards.

“Not everyone has fraud protection, and they should,” Rappenecker said. “It’s only $10, and as soon as you get it they check into your credit to see if there has been any activity.”

Western has established a website at www.wiu.edu/securityalert and is providing a toll-free prerecorded telephone information message at 877/556-4100 or, for Macomb area service, 309/298-4100, to assist in answering questions regarding the unauthorized computer system access and security issues.