CORVALLIS, Ore. - The Oregon State Police (OSP) are investigating the theft of personal information from as many as 4,700 online customers of the OSU Bookstore who used credit cards to purchase items.

In March of this year, OSP began investigation into a report that approximately 30 OSU Bookstore customers' personal information may have been compromised following online orders.

Then last week, telephone calls and e-mails began coming into the Bookstore from customers who had noticed fraudulent charges on their credit cards almost immediately after placing online orders, according to OSU Bookstore General Manager Steve Eckrich. "We immediately shut down our servers when we recognized it as an external breach," Eckrich said.

The Bookstore has alerted its online customers who had made a purchase during that time frame.

Lt. Jeff Lanz, the OSP Area Commander at the Oregon State University office, said online theft can lead to felony criminal charges including theft, identity theft, computer crime and fraudulent use of a credit card. Such online thefts are becoming an increasing problem, he pointed out, as more consumers use computers for shopping, paying bills and other daily business.

Lanz said the security breach appears to have originated from an unknown source outside the university. Persons who are concerned about identity theft should carefully monitor their credit card statements, he added, and contact their financial institutions if they suspect a problem.

The OSU Bookstore has hired an outside agency to help with its own investigation of the security breach and to provide guidance on strengthened security safeguards for its computing network.

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Steve Eckrich,