UH burglaries likely
leading to ID theft

Burglars have taken documents ranging from checks and credit card slips to employment applications in recent office burglaries on the University of Hawaii's Manoa campus.

Honolulu police Detective Jensen Okagawa said burglars were looking for personal information that could be used to steal people's identities and then rifle their bank or credit card accounts.

Thirteen burglaries were reported on the campus in September -- up from three the month before -- in which credit and debit cards, checkbooks and even completed employment applications were reported stolen while other high-priced items like computers and digital cameras were left behind.

On Tuesday, someone entered an unlocked lab at the campus' Pacific Biomedical Research Center in the early afternoon and stole a laptop that was secured to a desk and a backpack with a graduate student's checkbook and two credit card statements.

"Definitely, if it means anything to you, secure it," said the backpack's owner, Shannon Kayatani.

As a victim of identity theft in the past, Kayatani knew to cancel his checks and credit cards after he found out they had been compromised. He also asked his credit card companies to check for any activity on his cards during the hours after his statements were taken.

Those are good tips to remember, said Okagawa, who is with the Honolulu Police Department's burglary and theft detail.

Okagawa and other law enforcement officials will speak to almost 200 faculty members at the university today on how to avoid falling victim to identity theft. The presentation is aimed at reducing the number of identity thefts on and off campus.

He said the university is probably the only large institution -- with a number of offices and on a sprawling campus -- that has been systematically targeted by identity thieves.

And, he said, "anybody can become a victim. There is so much information" available.

Most of the campus' recent thefts have occurred in overnight break-ins, said university spokesman Jim Manke.

Doors with handles that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act are especially susceptible to intruders, who have devised a method to break pins inside the handles' locking mechanism.

HPD is investigating all of the university's burglaries, but has not made any arrests or recovered any items, Manke said.

Campus security officials issued an alert earlier this month and advised university employees to remove items from their offices that could contain personal information.

Okagawa said Social Security numbers -- found on old Hawaii driver's licenses, some checks and most of the university's student identification cards -- are coveted by those hoping to steal others' identities.

"They can actually assume a person's identity, open up credit card accounts and establish a line of credit" with a Social Security number, he said.


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