The personal information of nearly 300,000 students and employees of Northwest Florida State College was recently stolen by unknown hackers. The college computer system’s server was breached back in January of this year, but the effects are just now being felt…and they are numerous. Names, birth dates, social security numbers, and bank account information are just a few of the pieces of identification that were stolen. It is believed the hackers gained access to the employees’ and students’ information by taking bits and pieces of information from the college’s files and then using that information to apply for loans at lending institutions. The hackers then had the subsequent loan payments deducted from the stolen accounts, therefore making quick and easy money. The majority of the student victims were grant and scholarship recipients, and their young age could make them potential victims for many, many years to come. The FBI and the Secret Service are both aiding cyber crime detectives from the state of Florida in investigating the incident, which also involves attempting to locate and identify the hacking suspect or suspects. So far, the investigation has led them to believe the hackers are based somewhere in the southwest United States.
According to Javelin Strategy and Research, there were approximately twelve million victims of identity theft in the United States in 2011, a 13% increase from 2010. And since this particular case occurred in Florida, it’s also interesting to note that Florida ranks number one in the United States for identity theft crimes, according to the Federal Trade Commission.Victims of identity theft can spend a lot of time, sometimes many years, attempting to recover from the crime. They can close the old, stolen bank accounts and open new ones and open new credit card accounts, but it can take years to restore bad credit that an identity thief can cause. The victim can’t, however, start over with a new identity, new social security number, or birth date, which means these crimes can haunt them for many years to come.