The college database containing over 3,000 employee W-2 forms, was hacked Jan. 19, and private information such as social security numbers and addresses, were accessed.
All employees on the 2016 payroll have been affected. After discovering the breach, the college contacted the FBI, the IRS, and local law enforcement. In response, the district has offered all affected employees free identity security services.
Dan Dryden, president of the Council of Classified employees, has heard from several classified faculty members within the union who have found their tax returns filed illegally. “I’ve heard specifically about a dozen but I’m sure there’s more, and there probably will be,” he said in reference to the fact that many have yet to file their tax returns.
These employees then have to contact the IRS, file a police report, and then refile by paper with a IRS issued pin code.
Dryden said that many affected employees rely heavily on their tax returns. “They won’t see that refund for months and months because the IRS will investigate the entire thing and that holds it up.”
According to Laura Gropen, Palomar’s communications director, none of these tax returns will be stolen because all of the affected accounts were flagged by the IRS after the incident.
“We’ve done everything we can to protect the interests of our employees,” President Joi Lin Blake said.
A plan is currently underway to give faculty access to experts paid for by the district who would be able to answer questions to alleviate concerns. “There’s just a lot of people who are uneasy,” Dryden said. “They’re scared, and rightfully so. That’s why I’m asking the district if they would do that and they seem to be open to it.”
Most faculty learned of the breach when a letter from the college president appeared in their mailbox two weeks after it was originally discovered. According to an email sent out to faculty on Feb. 6, the notice was delayed due to the advice of legal council and the insurance carrier to protect the integrity of the law enforcement investigation.
“I wish it would’ve been quicker, I wish we would’ve known sooner,” said Travis Ritt, Faculty Senate President. He added, “That being said, they did do their do diligence.”
The Information Services department, who is responsible for keeping W-2 forms on file, has not responded after repeated attempts to contact.
According to a recent update given to faculty, the FBI investigation has revealed that the suspect was likely an individual operating from Northern California.
If you were on the colleges 2016 payroll and you have been affected or have questions or concerns, contact the Palomar College incident response line at 1-(844) 856-9320.
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