Personal info found in trash

March 23, 2009 4:22:56 PM PDT
Some Baytown homeowners are concerned after they discovered that boxes filled with documents containing their personal information, including names and Social Security numbers, had just been tossed in the trash.[SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

We found someone sifting through a trash truck for documents, but he has good reason to be. He's with the Texas attorney general's office. He can't speak publicly about what he's investigating, but some homeowners are.

"People's personal information is in there, you know," said homeowner Russell Neubear. "It's their Social Security numbers, their phone numbers, their kids' IDs and Social Security numbers are in there. It's terrible. It's disgusting."

This weekend, they say they found loan documents being removed from what had been a model home sales office. The loan applications were taken by Royce Homes, which is no longer active in the subdivision. The model home is said to have been sold, and part of the trash that was taken out included paperwork that could be a gold mine for identity theft.

Homeowner Laurie Newberry said, "It's been here for a couple of days. We don't know. They could already have information. We never found everything. We know we didn't find everything, because we had another house we were going to buy in here and we didn't find any information on that house."

The question is, who is responsible -- the builder who had the loan application files, the current property owner or the cleaning crew? The AG's office says it's too soon to comment. For those who found their own paperwork in the trash, though, they fear time is already up.

"Somebody needs to take responsibility for their actions," said homeowner Theresa Duke. "This information gets in the wrong hands, then we're completely violated, not once, but twice, and for the rest of our lives."

We attempted to speak with an attorney for Royce Homes. Our phone call was not returned. We could not Royce Homes by phone either.

If you're afraid your identity has been stolen, here are some things you can look out for. Experts say you should keep track of the bills that come in the mail. If they don't arrive on time, that could mean an identity thief has taken over your account and changed your address to cover it up. Also be careful if you receive credit cards that you didn't apply for, or if you are denied credit for no apparent reason. And, of course, get a credit report to find out if there are any accounts on your record that you don't know about.

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