PLANO — You can find a lot of things in trash containers after Christmas.
Things like boxes, wrapping paper and bad gifts.
But how about boxes of medical records, Social Security numbers and personal information? That's what a shocked News 8 viewer discovered behind the Haggard Library in Plano.
Karen Cruz just wanted to help her niece with a school project. But she found more than just the right size box needed when she checked the paper recycling container behind the library.
Familiar with personnel rules from a stint in the military, Cruz quickly realized the documents in these almost 50 cartons didn't belong here.
"I picked up a notebook that was sitting on top, I flipped it over and saw pages and pages of Social Security numbers," she said. "I got concerned."
Inside the cartons, News 8 reviewed hundreds of names, Social Security numbers, medical records, home addresses and phone numbers of former employees of a company named White Rock Networks between 2000 and 2005.
The Richardson tech company went bankrupt in 2006 and was eventually purchased by another firm that later merged with a third company.
Under federal law, personal medical information is not to be divulged.
From personnel files, News 8 contacted one of the former White Rock Networks employees who came to retrieve her records,
"It's very shocking, I mean very disturbing," she said. "No one should have the right to just dump personal information. I don't see how people can get away with this."
Alerted to the mysteriously placed records, the City of Plano contacted Allied Waste to pick the dumpster. But when the driver said he doesn't pick up stuff outside the dumpster, we put the cartons where they belong.
Finishing off the job someone in a human resources office should have done responsibly long ago.
Texas ranks second in the country for identify theft complaints. You are entitled to a free credit report every year.
If you think your personal information has been stolen, here's what you should do: Contact a consumer reporting company like Equifax, Experian or TransUnion and request a "Fraud Alert" on your credit report.
You should also file a complaint with the attorney general's office and the Federal Trade Commission.
Several former White Rock Networks employees contacted News 8 Tuesday concerned about what ultimately happened to their personnel and medical records in the recycling process. According to Phil Miesner at Allied Waste, the City of Plano’s contractor, he personally watched the container processed Monday afternoon after being contacted by the city. Miesner said the documents were among the paper sorted out and then baled in 1,500 pound bales. The bales are then shipped in secure shipping containers to domestic and foreign mills where the bales are destroyed by shredding and processed into pulp for products such as newsprint and toilet paper.
Additionally, Dana Conklin, director of public information, released this statement: “After Channel 8 was contacted yesterday about the corporate documents left at a recycling bin, Brad Watson (Channel 8) contacted the City of Plano about the matter. Mr. Watson, the police department and our recycling contractor worked together to remove the boxes and recycling bin. The successful removal of the boxes and documents from the location was reported in his story. Our recycling contractor, Allied, has verified they put the products immediately through the recycling process to ultimately become new recycled paper consumer products.”