Residents vulnerable to fraud because of university response to break-in, says

A student living at the University of British Columbia’s Thunderbird residence say the university’s response to a Monday break-in has left them vulnerable to identity theft after hundreds of room keys and personal information cards were stolen.

In the aftermath of the break-in, UBC Student Housing has said it is replacing over 400 locks at the residence, and communicating with students about what personal information may have been stolen.

Three days after the theft, Evan Croteau says he is still waiting for the lock to his bedroom to be replaced.

“I’ve been told that my locks were supposed to be replaced on Friday, but that’s still five nights where anyone could access my room while I’m sleeping,” said the third-year geography student. 

“What I have been doing in the meantime is just keeping my bike against my door so at least I’ll hear it fall over if someone were to try to come in.”

Andrew Parr, associate vice-president of student housing and community services at the University of British Columbia, says the university has increased security foot patrols until all locks are replaced.

“I’ve worked here for over three decades and we’ve not had a break-in like this and have this kind of situation arise,” he said.

“We’re already having conversations about what do we need to do to mitigate this risk, and not only at this front desk, but other front desks moving forward.”

University RCMP say a man in his 30s who is not a student was arrested, and has been released. He is scheduled to appear in court at a later date. Police did not say what he may be charged with.

Student concerned about identity theft

In the meantime, students like Croteau worry about the possibility of identity theft using the information on their contract cards.

In an email sent to affected students on Tuesday, UBC Student Housing confirmed the cards contained students’ name, photo, room number, address, date of birth, signature, student ID number, details about their field of study and their contract dates, and in some cases, the name of their doctor and medical conditions.

“We had […] enough personal information to open a bank account and then some that was stolen,” said Croteau.

A beige building is pictured on a street corner.
The University of British Columbia’s Thunderbird residence is located at 6335 Thunderbird Crescent and houses mostly upper-year and graduate students. (Murray Titus/CBC News)

In the days since the break-in, UBC Student Housing and Parr have confirmed that in addition to the keys and contract cards, mail and parcels that were being kept in a temporary office in the building at 6355 Thunderbird Crescent were also stolen.

Croteau and students commenting on a Reddit thread online wonder why it took UBC until Tuesday to inform them about the keys and cards being stolen and until Wednesday to inform them about the stolen mail and parcels.

“It was only after several more emails throughout the week that I realized just how serious this was,” said Croteau. 

Parr says the university wanted to ensure it had accurate information about what was stolen and recovered when a suspect was arrested before sending emails to students.

Croteau says the university should at the very least offer to pay for a credit card monitoring service for the affected students.

“This is a huge, huge, huge thing that’s impacting a very large number of people and it’s quite scary both in terms of physical safety with the keys, but also financial safety with the identity, our information being stolen.”

Parr says administrators have been discussing the possibility of offering credit monitoring to affected students, but the university has not committed to it yet.

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