More than 3,000 students’ identities are at risk of being stolen after a professor’s laptop, which contained personal information of past students, was taken last month.

John Mottmann, a physics professor, reported on July 5 that his home in San Luis Obispo had been broken into two days earlier and his laptop was missing. He notified the university and said some of the files on his computer contained class lists for his physics and astronomy classes from fall 1994 to fall 2004. Within a couple of weeks, the university sent out a letter to the 3,020 affected students, explaining the situation and listing credit agencies to contact.

Erin Crivelli, a physics senior, was one of the students to receive the letter having taken PHYS 131, general physics, with Mottman in winter 2004. But she’s not worried about her identity being stolen.

“For me, it’s no big deal,” she said. “There’s so many ways you can have your identity stolen.”

Crivelli experienced a similar situation years ago at a previous job and said she lost her wallet two weeks ago, which contained her social security card. She said she has lost it before and “hopes that someone nice took it.”

“I definitely think I should (be concerned),” she said. “But I trust that nothing will happen to it.”

Vicki Stover, the campus information security officer, said the university is taking steps to replace social security numbers with unique forms of identification. The incoming fall class will be the first to have these codes assigned and returning students will follow.

“It’s a very long process,” Stover said. “My understanding is that it will be complete by December.”

The process began in 2004, which ended Mottmann’s class lists in fall of that year.

Stover added that it is not unusual for a professor to keep such records long after the class is over.

“A number of students call and ask for references,” she said. “We have and will be asking faculty to remove (unnecessary information). If they do need it, they need to secure it.”

Crivelli was sympathetic to the situation.

“It sucks, but I understand,” she said. “You have to keep that stuff for years in case there is a dispute (in the records).”

The San Luis Obispo Police Department is currently investigating the situation and the laptop is still missing.

As for whether students have had their identities stolen, “no one has reported that to me,” Stover said.

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