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Ball State Staff Report Identity Thefts, Suspect Anthem Hack

MUNCIE, Ind. — Ball State University employees who say their identities have been stolen want to know whether a recent data breach at health insurer Anthem is to blame.

Professor Jennifer Palilonis told The Star Press that she and other employees have had their tax returns rejected because someone using their identities had already filed one. She said she knows of at least 17 other people who’ve been affected.

“I find it awfully coincidental so many people at one university could get hit in such a short period of time,” she said. “There are dramatic similarities in terms of what’s happening to all of us.”

Ball State spokeswoman Joan Todd said the university is helping employees by providing information on how to get Internal Revenue Service assistance, but has no information linking the identity thefts to the Anthem breach.

“Identity theft has been a problem across the world for decades,” she said. “We have no information that any identity thefts … are a result of the Anthem security breach.”

Anthem has said that hackers staged a sophisticated attack to break into a health insurance database that stored information for 78.8 million people sometime between early December and late January. The breach in one of Anthem’s several databases was detected when a computer system administrator discovered outsiders were using his security credentials to log into the system.

The company said in late February it was still trying to determine how many records were stolen from the database, but it expected that total to be lower.

Palilonis, a professor of multimedia, said she feels “helpless” despite spending hours freezing her credit, filing theft reports and talking to the IRS.

“My identity has been stolen, my husband’s identity has been stolen, and I think they have my kids’ Social Security numbers,” she said.

Palilonis said she owed the IRS this year but received a tax refund of more than $8,500 in the form of a pre-paid debit card. She reported the fraud to the card provider.

“I don’t want to have an account in my name with $8,500 in fraudulent tax filings on it,” she said.

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