Probe measures ID theft potential State ‘dumpster dives’ for personal info firms discard

Probe measures ID theft potential State ‘dumpster dives’ for personal info firms discard

FRANKFORT –Attorney General Greg Stumbo displayed a large table of records yesterday with personal information, including Social Security numbers and medical information, that his investigators had recovered from the trash of 121 businesses chosen at random in Lexington, Frankfort, Florence and Louisville.

“Consumers face an increased risk of identity theft or loss of privacy when their personal information is not destroyed when records are discarded,” Stumbo said in a news conference to warn businesses not to discard records with personal information.

Stumbo said 33 of the 121 businesses threw more than 500 records, containing personal information about more than 1,250 people, into publicly accessible trash receptacles.

Fourteen of those businesses tossed out more sensitive information about nearly 1,000 people, he said.

Businesses don’t want to be held responsible for a stolen identity, but many of them don’t think about the consequences when tossing information, said Jay Foley, executive director of the Identity Theft Resource Center, a non-profit organization based in San Diego. He said “dumpster diving” is one of the primary ways that identities are stolen.

Kentucky law requires businesses to properly dispose of records containing personal information, by shredding, erasing or other methods to make the personal information unreadable, Stumbo said. The records his investigators retrieved will be shredded after they are are no longer needed, the attorney general said.

Todd Leatherman, who heads Stumbo’s Office of Consumer Protection, said the 33 businesses have been notified, and that more information is being sought from the 14 that threw away sensitive information.

The businesses, Leatherman said, will be asked to develop or strengthen policies to ensure compliance with the law.

Personal information discarded improperly by businesses is only one of many ways identity theft occurs, said Heather Clary, director of communications at the Better Business Bureau of Central and Eastern Kentucky. She said the organizations receives calls every day from people concerned about identity theft. Information — sometimes from paycheck stubs, credit card offers or medical prescriptions — is often stolen from the individuals’ trash cans or mailboxes. Internet “phishing” scams also are common. And in regard to business, information is sometimes stolen electronically.

“The consumer has to be just as vigilant about it as the business,” Clary said.On the Web


For tips on how to prevent identity theft, go to


ID theft facts
• With 1,766 Kentuckians victims of identity theft in 2006, that’s 42 victims per 100,000 people.

• Only six states had a lower percentage of identity theft victims in 2006.

• The states with the worst identity theft problems: Arizona, Nevada, California, Texas and Florida.

Florida Shredding