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August 04, 2004

College Athletes At Risk From Stalkers And Identity Thieves

FROM THE BRAVE NEW WORLD OF WEB-BASED WACKOS comes word of stalking, identity theft and weird phone calls to college athletes.

Some think the proliferation of information about college athletes—including birthdays, middle names, parents’ names, etc.—on websites and media guides / booklets has exacerbated the problem.

Correspondingly, some schools are restricting the amount of information they provide about athletes.

Examples of threats to student-athletes are troubling and varied. After 11 pairs of a female OSU swimmer’s underwear were swiped from her apartment, officials removed swimmers' photos from the school's athletic website. In 2002 a man posed as a reporter to a University of Dayton volleyball player, ostensibly aided by information gleaned from university sources.

At Oregon State in 2001, a man called gymnast Karissa Moreland to say he was starting an East Coast sports magazine and wanted to interview her. But it quickly became evident that he was a weirdo. The man called weekly. Sometimes he described his sexual fantasies.

Moreland thinks the man got help in finding her from a short biography posted on the school's athletic website. The man had called her parents and persuaded them to give him Moreland's unlisted phone number.

Now, three years after the Moreland scare, Oregon State has decided to pull birth dates and middle names from media guides and its athletic website. Other universities are also restricting access to athletes' personal information, and several other s are considering the same.

The University of Florida is pulling athletes' birth dates, middle names and parents' names off its athletic website. The policy resulted in part from advice from campus police. Florida will no longer publish travel itineraries, which included and locations of hotels where teams planned to stay on the road.

Also, the University of Miami did not include players' birth dates, middle names or parents' names in its current football media guide. Ross Bjork, Miami Associate AD, said a few of the school's female athletes have been stalked in recent years.

Oregon State Police reported that identity theft increased 33% last year to a reported 214,905 cases nationally, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Some skeptics think that the pulling of information is an overreaction. They point out that a thief could learn plenty from easily accessed public records: from the property a person owns to his DMV record.

The most common ways identity thieves get information are by Dumpster diving, stealing wallets or taking mail. Identity theft usually happens to lesser-known people than athletes.

Net net: safety first is always a good rule. While identity theft of student-athletes is a slim threat, stalking most definitely is, especially among females athletes.

Common sense and vigilance are ALWAYS in fashion.

(this 433 word excerpt—with accompanying commentary—was distilled from a 1237 word article from The Oregonian of 8-1-04)