Lapse in AMS Security

Private documents left unprotected, stolen from JDUC

AMS President Talia Radlciffe says the AMS will look into filing a complaint with the Judicial Affairs Office.
AMS President Talia Radlciffe says the AMS will look into filing a complaint with the Judicial Affairs Office.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

Due to an oversight in the transfer of files, AMS employees from the 2007-08 school year were put at risk for identity theft.

Last week, the Journal was anonymously delivered a box of documents containing dozens of confidential AMS employee T4 forms, as well as memos and e-mails regarding employee terminations and pay advances.

The documents were stolen from boxes accidentally left outside the locked storage room in which they’re usually kept by AMS Controller Scott Bell.

Bell said all payroll and financial files from the AMS are kept in his office. When the financial audits for the previous year are finished, Bell said, he personally moves the documents to a secure area for storage.

“After our audits are done usually during the summer I clear out the old files and would move them from my locked office over to a storage room on the other side of the JDUC with two separate keys to get into.”

Bell said he wasn’t able to gain access to the storage area when he was moving the boxes at the end of August. “At the end of the summer I moved the boxes by hand over to the other storage area and set them down and was unable to get in the locked area,” he said. “I left the boxes in the hallway, reported I couldn’t get into the room, and when the room was repaired and I was able to get access I had forgotten the boxes were there.”

Bell said the AMS holds onto financial records in storage for years before destroying them.

“We maintain a payroll for at least seven years, and after that point any records that are older than that are shredded and we receive a certificate that the documents have been shredded.” T4 slips are used as a record of taxable income and contain the individual’s social insurance number, something necessary for a Canadian citizen, a newcomer to Canada or a temporary resident to obtain work in Canada or receive benefits and services from government programs.

If a social insurance number is lost or stolen, it can be used to illegally obtain government benefits, tax refunds or bank credits.

Additional personal information found on T4 slips, such as names, date of birth, address and other personal identification numbers, can be used to open credit card and bank accounts, redirect mail, establish cell phone service, rent vehicles, equipment or accommodation and secure employment. If this happens, the victim of identity theft could be left with bills, charges, bad cheques and taxes.

AMS President Talia Radcliffe said the AMS will look into who stole the documents and plans to file a complaint within the non-academic discipline system.

“When the student found these boxes, he [or she] had a bunch of different choices. He [or she] could have chosen to notify us, as we assume a well-intentioned student would, but instead, a malicious decision was made and that’s what turns the story around a little bit,” she said. “The average student would have probably ignored it or let us know, but unfortunately a different decision was made on his [or her] part, and that turning point makes us want to look into non-academic discipline.”

Under section six of the Terms of Conduct of the Queen’s University Student Code of Conduct, “students shall refrain from theft, knowingly possessing stolen property, trespassing, vandalism, and willfully or negligently damaging private or University property.”

Internal Affairs Commissioner Alexa Gendron-O’Donnell said anyone looking to file a complaint must be able to identify the person who violated the code, the section of the code that was violated and the way in which they were directly harmed by the violation.

“Anyone who feels as though they have been directly harmed through a violation of the code can make a formal complaint to me,” she told the Journal via e-mail.

Gendron-O’Donnell said she determines if the requirements of a complaint have been met, she’ll pass it on to the Judicial Affairs Office, who will conduct an investigation.

“The potential outcomes include reaching a settlement with the respondent, dropping the case, or presenting it to our Judicial Committee, which may result in sanctions,” she said.

Bell, who has worked for the AMS for 12 years, said the incident was an anomaly and has never happened before.

“The records are kept in a safe location and I feel bad about this and apologize to the students,” he said. “The boxes weren’t gone at any point, just files removed from the boxes. I’ve gone through the boxes and am confident that the information is there.”

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