Many consumers across the country visit lawyers and disclose all sorts of sensitive information, but one law office in Texas was recently found to be especially careless with that data.
According to a report from San Antonio television station KENS, close to 75 legal files were recently found in a dumpster off Interstate 10 near the suburb of Boerne. And because many identity thieves have been known to stoop as low as rooting through trash bins to find sensitive information, it's an especially lackadaisical disposal method for the attorney to take when disposing of old files.
The report said that the information in the files contained everything a fraudster would need to rip off an honest consumer: names, addresses, dates of birth, bank account information, Social Security numbers, and driver's license numbers. The attorney told KENS that the files not only came from his office, but that he threw them away himself. He said he is a collections attorney who got the information from a local bank, and that all the account information contained in them was out of date.
He also told the station that he was unaware of Texas' Identity Theft Enforcement and Protection Act of 2005, which requires businesses to shred sensitive information that belongs to its customers. In fact, he said, he doesn't shred anything. The station noted that the Attorney General's office can fine a business up to $50,000 per violation.
One person whose information could have been compromised told the station she was "appalled."
"It's terrifying to think now in this age with identity theft, some people take years to get it corrected," she said, adding that she had already been victimized by identity theft once before.
A spokesman from the San Antonio Police Department told the station that any of the people listed in the files could have been victimized by identity theft, because the bare minimum a thief needs to commit the crime is a Social Security number.
The practice of dumpster diving for sensitive information is nothing new to identity thieves, so it is important for not only businesses, but consumers as well, to ensure that any document that contains even a small amount of sensitive personal information is shredded before being thrown out.