The University of Virginia has sent notices alerting more than 18,000 students that their Social Security numbers were exposed.
The numbers were printed on brochures from UVA's student health insurance company, Aetna.
UVA spokesperson McGregor McCance says a highly secure computer program used by student health contributed to the problem.
"Unfortunately, the program that was used to gather the student data for Aetna had not been updated as it should have been previously to avoid pulling out the Social Security numbers so that program, which has now been corrected so that this would not happen again, that program pulled the numbers, and the student information was provided to the insurance provider and unfortunately the brochures included the Social Security numbers on them," said McCance.
The notice, sent to UVA students via email, reiterated that the numbers were not identified or formatted as Social Security numbers.
Read the full email below.
Email from the University of Virginia Executive Director of Student Health:
I write to make certain you are aware of a recent, inadvertent use of Social Security numbers belonging to approximately 18,700 U.Va. students. This occurred during the mailing of a brochure containing information about the U.Va. Student Health Insurance Plan provided by Aetna Student Health. Along with names and addresses, Social Security numbers were printed on the brochures, although they were not identified or formatted as SSNs.
The brochures were mailed on July 3, 2013, but we were not made aware of the problem until July 11, 2013. We immediately updated the computer program used to gather the student information to prevent any recurrence. We then moved as quickly as possible to investigate what happened, identify the affected students, and notify them. We deeply regret that this occurred, and we are taking immediate steps to mitigate the situation.
On Friday, we are mailing letters to all students who were affected. The letters include general information and instructions for enrolling in a free, one-year credit monitoring service. The service will detect possible misuse of personal information and provide identity protection services. We have also established a toll-free call-in center for students and parents who have questions or concerns; the letter includes a special 10-digit reference code for accessing the call-in center. The center is staffed by trained professionals who are fully informed about the incident and the resources available to students.
Students and parents deserve a full explanation of how this happened. When the University provided student information to Aetna for this mailing, we inadvertently used an out-of-date computer program that automatically included Social Security numbers along with names and mailing addresses. In recent years, we have almost completely eliminated Social Security numbers as student-identifiers, although we still have numbers in some cases that are required. For example, Federal student financial aid requires a Social Security number, and the numbers are needed for some health care transactions.
In spite of these realities, we do not wish to make excuses for this occurrence, and we deeply regret the concern it may cause our students just as they are preparing to come to Charlottesville for the beginning of the fall semester. I assure you that the safety and security of our students remain our foremost concerns, and protecting their personal identity is part of that commitment.
James C. Turner, MD, Executive Director of Student Health
UVA Sends Notices to Students about Mailing MishapMore>>