Student IDs Can Give Too Much Away; Universities Find Ways to Safeguard Information from Prying Eyes

Article excerpt

Byline: BETH KORMANIK, The Times-Union

In a matter of seconds, prying eyes at some university libraries, dining halls or health centers can view a Social Security number printed on a student ID card and be one step closer to stealing an identity.

As identity theft becomes more widespread, experts warn that colleges students, some who may be managing their finances for the first time, need to guard their identities, too.

The University of Georgia just started to remove Social Security numbers from its ID, the UGACard, to protect students from identity theft. Instead, the university is assigning a random 16-digit ID number to students, faculty and staff.

The university had no reported cases of identity theft, but a Federal Trade Commission report showing the rise of identity theft in Georgia moved administrators to safeguard their students, said Ty Morris, UGACard administrator.

Another warning came in March, when a student at the University of Texas at Austin was arrested on charges of hacking into the school's computer system and stealing more than 55,000 names and Social Security numbers.

UGa has a secure computer system, Morris said, but the school thought printing Social Security numbers on student IDs made it too easy for would-be thieves to steal the information.

"We certainly don't want the Social Security numbers of our students to be compromised because of the university's system or because of us," Morris said.

UGa estimates up to 40,000 IDs could be converted, and the entire effort to switch people to new numbers could cost up to $4 million, Morris said.

Jacksonville University and the University of North Florida do not include Social Security numbers on student IDs. Instead, JU assigns its own number to identify students. UNF is moving in that direction through an overhaul of its computer system.

Right now, UNF students need their Social Security number to register for classes, access their academic record on the Internet and pay tuition, said registrar Kim Luther. The number also is embedded on the magnetic strip on ID cards, although it is difficult to access, Luther said. The new system will give students a random ID number to use instead. …


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