UNI Still Searching for Answers After Possible Data Breach

By Forrest Saunders, Reporter

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa - University of Northern Iowa officials are still searching for answers after thieves stole federal tax return refunds from the school's faculty and staff.

Officials believe crooks took personal information and are using it to file false tax information, then collecting refunded money.

About 200 UNI employees have reported complications while filing 2013 taxes. School officials don't think all of them are because of fraud, but said it's likely most are.

Darnell Cole-Taylor, a secretary at UNI, found out thieves got her information and refund money last month.

"I'm very upset because I feel that I have been violated," Cole-Taylor said.

Employees first reported the tax issues to the university February 6th. The school quickly formed a task force to investigate. But, weeks later, officials still don't know much.

At an open forum on the breach Tuesday afternoon, UNI officials told employees it's likely thieves have birth dates, full names, and social security numbers—but where that info came from is anyone's guess.

"We don't even know if it's us," said Scott Ketelsen, a university spokesperson. "This information is available in many places. We're trying to figure out where the breach is, but we just don't know."

Until officials can figure out more, they've told all employees to be on the lookout.

The university has set up webpage that includes steps to guard both potential and actual victims. Also, UNI is paying for one-year memberships to a financial information protection service.

The fraudulent taxes could be just the first use of hijacked personal information.

"With my information out there, who's to say that somebody, two years from now, a year from now, won't use that to do something illegal?" Cole-Taylor asked.

School officials have told employees to be proactive to prevent thieves from being able to use the info again. They said notifying banks of the breach, plus changing passwords and other finance information isn't a bad idea.
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