Dumpster diver finds old medical records

January 15, 2009 8:17:17 AM PST
It is information no one would want scattered on papers in a parking lot, much less thrown away in a dumpster for anyone to find. Medical records were found behind a 99 Cents store in southwest Houston putting people's identities at risk.[SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

"This has got Social Security numbers, Medicare numbers. That's pretty serious," said the man who found the documents.

Dozens of documents with sensitive personal information were dumped. A self-proclaimed dumpster diver who wants to remain anonymous found them.

"I found them loose like this," said the man.

He called Eyewitness News concerned about the people whose information may have been compromised.

"It looks like someone just cleaned out their files, cleaned out their office," said the man.

The files are from Express EMS Services, an ambulance company. There are names, dates of birth, addresses and Social Security numbers.

"If someone has your Social Security number, they really can steal your identity," said Richard Alderman, the People's Lawyer.

Eyewitness News followed the paper trail from the company's last public information report in 2006. Express EMS Services is long gone from its listed location on Regency Square and other addresses linked to its director were not in service. The phone number had been disconnected.

Still the attorney general's office said they are obviously interested in and have prosecuted cases like these. Companies have a legal obligation to shred sensitive material properly.

The People's Lawyer said if you ever used the ambulance service, you may want to do some work.

"If this were me, I'd wait a few weeks and I'd contact the credit bureau and I'd get a copy of my credit report and I'd look at it carefully for anything unusual," said Alderman.

Identity thieves can use your personal information to open accounts in your name, but the Federal Trade Commission has advice to protect yourself. The FTC recommends you file fraud alerts with the main credit agencies and immediately close accounts that were opened fraudulently.

After that, file a complaint with the FTC. The number to call is 1-877-ID-THEFT.

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