Everyone cares about their personal information. Credit cards, bank statements, or social security numbers are essentials to someone’s identity. Someone who has lost or misplaced any of the above items could find his or herself in deep trouble when the inevitable identity theft strikes. While people guard their personal safety, there are those who could care less about the personal information of others.
As dozens of people in Kalihi, Hawaii filled out a local radio’s contest forms, not a single one of these contest entrees had suspected their personal information would get tossed alongside other scraps. While on her routine nightly shift cleaning an office building, local citizen Angela Ishitani noticed paper scraps on the ground. These little bits of paper had personal information on it, and appeared to be radio contest forms. The following night the concerned citizen noticed the same bits of paper, even though she and her fellow crewmembers had cleaned up the bits of paper the night before.
Interestingly enough, the building where she worked at was not close to any radio stations. The trail of papers led the concerned citizen to the restaurant, GoKo Steak and Salad Bar, which had destroyed bags of paper outside its office building. GoKo Steak and Salad Bar was owned by Sizzler’s until the local restaurant filed for Chapter 11 in April of 2013. Sizzler had been operating in Hawaii for 50 years, with GoKo in business for ten years. Apparently after going out of business, the restaurant never turned in those hundreds of radio contests forms given to them.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the average number of reported identity fraud victims a year is 11,571,900. The same department reports that misuse of credit cards is the most common way a person becomes a victim of identity fraud, followed by misuse of banking information and misuse of personal information. GoKo’s Steak and Salad Bar’s former building had trash containing all of this information, with it spreading all across town.
That then begs the question; do all companies that go out of business disregard the safety of others? More than likely, a company going out of business may no longer care about such matters. The Bureau of Consumer Protection does say that companies who sell to consumers are obligated to “take steps to properly secure or dispose of” sensitive data.
Had Angela Ishitani and her co-workers not stumbled upon these papers then some people would have found themselves victims of identity theft! There are ways to prevent identity theft. The simplest way is to make sure that your passwords are not as simple as ‘1-2-3,’ your birthday, or ‘password.’ Make a challenging password, one that you will not forget with a combination of numbers, symbols and uppercase letters if permitted.
Another method is to have awareness as to where personal information, such as credit card information, is heading. Do not sign your credit card up for to untrustworthy websites. Old credit cards, bank statements, and other sensitive information should be disposed of carefully.
Shredders are good ways to ensure that this information is gone for good. Having a shredder around will help eliminate the worry of someone rummaging through your belongings and finding something as sensitive as a bank statement.
Ultimately, the best way to prevent identity fraud or misuse of your personal information is to make sure your information is in the hands of reliable people and that your information is safely discarded. As for businesses, the best way to avoid a potential lawsuit is to properly discard of sensitive information.