PCC: Employee loses thumb drive with personal info of 5,300 former students

Thousands of former Pitt Community College students could have their personal information at risk after the college says a computer thumb drive was lost.

PCC says some 5,300 full names, social security numbers, and addresses of the former students were on the drive that was lost January 21st..

Rick Owens, vice president of administrative services says an employee had the personal information on the thumb drive in order to transfer it to a secure location. He said the drive was lost before it got to that secure location.

PCC says people who took the High School Equivalence/GED exam at the college between January 1, 1967 and December 31, 2001 had their personal information lost. Those people are being asked to contact Owens at 252-493-7442.

The college does not believe the thumb drive was stolen. "It may have simply been discarded with materials that were being prepared for shredding," said Owens.

Owens says paper documents were being scanned for a new computerized system when the drive was lost.

PCC says it took more than a month to publicize the possible breach because the college had to re-examine all 5300 pieces of paper so they would know who to notify.

Information for potential victims

If you discover any suspicious or unusual activity on your accounts or suspect fraud, report it immediately to your financial institution(s). In addition, you may contact the Federal Trade Commission ("FTC"), the N.C. Attorney General's Office, or local law enforcement to report incidents of credit card fraud or identity theft or to learn about steps you can take to protect yourself from identity theft. Contact information for the Federal Trade Commission and the North Carolina Attorney General's Office is as follows:

Federal Trade Commission Consumer Response Center
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580
1-(877) 438-4338

North Carolina Department of Justice
Consumer Protection Division
9001 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-9001
(877) 566-7226

You are also entitled to a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies. Learn more by going to www.AnnualCreditReport.com or by calling (877) 322-8228. You may contact the credit reporting agencies individually to request more information at:

(800) 525-6285
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241

(888) 397-3742
P.O. Box 9532
Allen, TX 75013

(800) 680-7289
Fraud Victim Assistance Division
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834-6790

North Carolina Consumers Have the Right to Obtain a Security Freeze
If you are a member of the class of individuals described above, you have a right to place a "security freeze" on your credit report pursuant to North Carolina law. The security freeze will prohibit a consumer reporting agency from releasing any information in your credit report without your express authorization. A security freeze can be requested in writing by first-class mail, by telephone, or electronically. You also may request a freeze by visiting the following Web sites or calling the following telephone numbers:

Experian Security Freeze
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013

TransUnion Protected Consumer Freeze
P.O. Box 380
Woodlyn, PA 19094

Equifax Security Freeze
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, GA 30348

The security freeze is designed to prevent credit, loans, and services from being approved in your name without your consent. However, you should be aware that using a security freeze to take control over who gains access to the personal and financial information in your credit report may delay, interfere with, or prohibit the timely approval of any subsequent request or application you make regarding new loans, credit, mortgage, insurance, rental housing, employment, investment, license, cellular phone, utilities, digital signature, Internet credit card transactions, or other services, including an extension of credit at point of sale. The freeze will be placed within three business days if you request it by mail, or within 24 hours if you request it by telephone or electronically. When you place a security freeze on your credit report, within three business days, you will be sent a personal identification number or a password to use when you want to remove the security freeze, temporarily lift it, or lift it with respect to a particular third party. A freeze does not apply when you have an existing account relationship and a copy of your report is requested by your existing creditor or its agents or affiliates for certain types of account review, collection, fraud control, or similar activities. You should plan ahead and lift a freeze if you are actively seeking credit or services as a security freeze may slow your applications, as mentioned above. You can remove a freeze, temporarily lift a freeze, or lift a freeze with respect to a particular third party by contacting the consumer reporting agency and providing all of the following:
(1) Your personal identification number or password,
(2) Proper identification to verify your identity, and
(3) Proper information regarding the period of time you want your report available to users of the credit report, or the third party with respect to which you want to lift the freeze.

A consumer reporting agency that received a request from you to temporarily lift a freeze or to lift a freeze with respect to a particular third party on a credit report shall comply with the request no later than three business days after receiving the request by mail and no later than 15 minutes after receiving a request by telephone or electronically. A consumer reporting agency may charge you up to three dollars ($3.00) to institute a freeze if your request is made by telephone or by mail. A consumer reporting agency may not charge you any amount to freeze, remove a freeze, temporarily lift a freeze, or lift a freeze with respect to a particular third party, if any of the following are true:
(1) Your request is made electronically.
(2) You are over the age of 62.
(3) Your are the victim of identity theft and have submitted a copy of a valid investigative or incident report or complaint with a law enforcement agency about the unlawful use of your identifying information by another person, or your are the spouse of such a person.

You have a right to bring a civil action against someone who violates your rights under the credit reporting laws. The action can be brought against a consumer reporting agency or a user of your credit report.