Police tracking ID thefts

UCI police, working with federal and Texan investigators, have narrowed down the source of a security breach that compromised the Social Security numbers of more than 1,000 graduate students to a student resources center in Texas, officials said Wednesday.

Since January, 160 UCI graduate and medical students enrolled in the university’s Graduate Student Health Insurance Provider have reported their identities had been stolen after the IRS rejected their income tax returns.

The students were told their taxes had already been filed, and returns were on their way, police said.

Authorities have located the breach to an office in the student resource center of United Healthcare in Texas, the university’s third-party health-care provider. More than 1,100 Social Security numbers were compromised, but only 160 students have reported being victims so far, said Cathy Lawhon, a university spokeswoman.

“The risk, of course, is that whoever got ahold of this could continue to victimize these students. [But] the bulk of these reports were coming in January, February and March as students were filing tax returns,” Lawhon said.

Victims have not reported seeing fraudulent charges on credit cards or any other type of identity theft outside of losing their tax return money, police said. Most have refiled their taxes and will get returns eventually, said UCI Police Chief Paul Henisey.

The university is offering no-interest loans to victims, and United Healthcare is offering three years of free credit monitoring, university officials said.

Police suspect more than one person is involved and have made no arrests, but indicated they may be close.

Anyone with information or may be a victim of these crimes is asked to call UCI police at (949) 824-5223.

JOSEPH SERNA may be reached at (714) 966-4619 or at joseph.serna@latimes.com.

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