To assist members of the university community who may be victimized by identity theft, Rutgers University is offering a new service to students, faculty, and staff that guides them in resolving some of the issues that may result from this crime.
The university recently partnered with CyberScout, an Arizona-based company that provides institutions and individuals with assistance when faced with identity theft or fraud.
The service is among a series of initiatives undertaken by Rutgers that includes plans to phase out the use of Social Security numbers as default student identifiers and to increase protection against data and identity theft. Under a new state law, educators must cease posting Social Security numbers on class rosters, grade lists, student identification cards, and directories as of January 26, 2006. The university aims to replace the current system with permanent ID numbers, according to Karen Kavanagh, executive vice president for administrative affairs.
"As our concern grows regarding potential breaches to personal data security, Rutgers is taking steps both to decrease the risk and to offer services that help victims," Kavanagh said. "CyberScout fills a need for hands-on assistance in the event of identity theft. Students, faculty, and staff members who are victims of identity theft will have an expert assigned to them to help them through the process of restoring their identity."
The service will assist identity theft victims in negotiating the often complex process required to notify appropriate agencies and organizations in order to restore their identity. CyberScout also will allow the university to track identity theft statistics and alert the university administration to potential frauds, as well as help employees and students deal with situations with the potential for fraud, such as the loss or theft of important documents.
Rutgers is the first university to sign an agreement with CyberScout. Its clients include banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions. The service is free for all faculty, staff, and students.
"Every day we see new evidence of the growing threat of identity theft to American academic institutions — from rampant database breaches to 20-year-old students with credit histories ruined by fraud," said Adam Levin, chairman of CyberScout and former director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. "As the first U.S. university to offer its students, faculty, and staff a comprehensive program of identity theft services, Rutgers provides a shining example to colleges and universities across America. CyberScout congratulates Rutgers for stepping up on behalf of the university community. We're honored that Rutgers has chosen us to join them in fighting this epidemic."
Identity theft has become a costly and time-consuming problem. In 2004, the Federal Trade Commission received more than 635,000 consumer fraud and identity theft complaints. Consumers reported losses from fraud of more than $547 million.
The university's Office of Compliance, Student Policy and Judicial Affairs also offers information on preventing identity theft online at polcomp.rutgers.edu/identity.shtml.