PSU grad victim of identity theft

Portland State graduate Matt Koppelman was upset when he received a call from the Hillsboro police informing him that his credit report was among several stolen from Beaverton Nissan. His frustration turned to anger, however, when he learned that credit reports and other sensitive files at the dealership were kept in an outdoor storage bin secured only by a pad lock.

Koppelman was contacted Jan. 30 by Hillsboro Police detective Matt Shannon. Shannon said he found Koppelman’s credit report when he executed a search warrant on the residence of Jason Pearl and his roommate Mark Hughbert, located at 160 S.E. Washington Street in Hillsboro. Shannon was able to obtain the warrant after a routine traffic stop in which Pearl produced several forged checks and a false ID.

Shannon found boxes of files containing sensitive material from Beaverton Nissan at Pearl and Hughbert’s home. “We found a lot of files from Beaverton Nissan containing social security numbers, banking information, co-signers; anything and everything you need to impersonate someone,” Shannon said.

Armed only with the information that his credit report had been taken, Koppelman decided to investigate on his own. He called Beaverton Nissan and spoke to salesman Chris Bush.

“I asked him how my records could have been stolen, and he told me that anyone could have done it because they store their records outdoors in a metal storage bin with a padlock,” Koppelman said.

According to Detective Shannon, however, the thief was not just anyone and the theft of Beaverton Nissan’s records was not a result of a break-in to the outdoor storage area. Instead, the theft was executed by longtime Beaverton Nissan employee Bryan Jetty.

Shannon described Jetty as a hard-working employee who got involved with methamphetamines and met his accomplices, Pearl and Hughbert through the use of drugs. Although Shannon was quick to point out that Jetty’s actions led to his arrest, he said he believes that Jetty was influenced by his accomplices who were using the information obtained from Beaverton Nissan to falsify identities in order to obtain funds to support their drug use.

Jetty, who worked as a mechanic, was able to steal two boxes of files detailing customers who purchased cars from Beaverton Nissan in 2003. According to Shannon’s investigation, the records were stored in an area that could be accessed by any Beaverton Nissan employee. Detective Shannon believes that the management of Beaverton Nissan was unaware of the thefts until Hillsboro Police notified them of the search of Hughbert and Pearl’s residence.

Shannon said that many businesses are unaware potential security risks. “Beaverton Nissan is also a victim of theft,” Shannon said. “They did what they thought was best for the storage of files. Unfortunately their system broke down, through no fault of theirs.”

Businesses need to use extra caution when storing files that could possibly be used in identity theft, Shannon said, adding that businesses should pay particular attention to which employees have access to sensitive files and what types of background checks have been performed on these employees.

According to Veda Kindle, senior assistant director of admissions, Portland State University takes the security of its records very seriously. Paper records, including applications of admission are stored in a locked vault. Both classified and student employees have access to the vault, although both are briefed on security procedures and must sign a statement verifying that they understand the records are to be kept confidential.

“We monitor all the records closely to make sure there are no unauthorized uses,” Kindle said.

Additionally, PSU has begun assigning students a random ID number to be used in place of a social security number. This was at the request of the Social Security Administration, which has asked all universities to stop using social security numbers as student identification. Kindle says that PSU changed its policy within two months of the Social Security Administration’s request.

“Student information is very precious. We try to guard it carefully,” Kindle said.

Shannon praised Beaverton Nissan’s management for the way they have responded to the thefts. “They have done everything they can to prevent this from happening again, including securing the outdoor files in a new location,” Shannon said.

Daver Gerlach, general manager of Beaverton Nissan, was unavailable for comment.

In the meantime, Koppelman and other victims must monitor their credit closely. Koppelman has not discovered any unlawful use of his identity or credit, but is frustrated by the amount of effort he must now put into watching over his identity.

“I have to issue a fraud alert every 90 days for who knows how long,” he said. Although Koppelman’s credit has yet to be compromised, a number of individuals from as far away as Long Beach, CA have become victims of Hughbert, Pearl and Jetty’s fraudulent activities.