Local News

Dumped Documents Raise Concern

Posted November 23, 2004 3:44 a.m. EST

— From shredding mail to multiple online passwords, people take all kinds of precautions to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft. Some say one company's careless action may put hundreds of law firms at risk.

A woman who works at a Cary office complex said she became suspicious when she noticed boxes of paperwork were just left outside a Dumpster there.

The gate to the Dumpster is locked, but by just walking around the fence, she found more discarded papers inside that concerned her.

The woman, who asked not to be identified, said the papers contained personal information including addresses, phone numbers and names. She said all of the information was just left by a Dumpster in the Commonwealth Office Park in Cary.

"Identity theft being what it is today, I would be appalled if a company I worked with threw away my personal information that someone could gather," she said.

The paperwork belongs to Chicago Title Insurance Co. The company was in the process of moving to a new Cary location.

A lot of the information the company discarded is public record -- items like property deeds. Other documents are more sensitive, including copies of checks belonging to hundreds of attorneys.

WRAL found several from the firm of Smith Debnam.

"The thing that concerns me is our account number is available and these are also signed copies. So that would make it easier on someone to attempt to forge a name on an account by tracing signatures," attorney Thurston Debnam said.

The title company is not legally required to shred this kind of paperwork, but Debnam believes it should not be left in a public place.

"Very poor business practices," he said.

WRAL went to Chicago Titles new office. A woman who identified herself as the manager says they went back to the Dumpster and gathered what they could.

When asked why the documents were left at the dumpster she replied, "Because that's what I was told to do." The only other thing the woman said is that the papers will be shredded now.

The woman who was concerned about the discarded boxes called Cary police after she saw some suspicious men rummaging through the boxes over the weekend.

Police said an officer responded and did not find the men. The officer looked through some of the boxes and found nothing to indicate any laws were broken.