ID theft bonanza left unsecured at Wash. gov't building

ID theft bonanza left unsecured at Wash. gov't building »Play Video
KOMO is KATU's news partner in Seattle

TACOMA, Wash. -- When we handed Lyle Lippel a set of documents that could have been used to steal his identity and cause financial ruin he said it was crazy and scary that the papers were so easy to find.

Lippel's private information was in a pile of paperwork dumped in plain sight, accessible to anyone walking by the state-owned Rhodes Building in downtown Tacoma.

The documents contained Social Security numbers, dates of birth, and mothers' maiden names for his whole family.

A concerned citizen contacted the KOMO Problem Solvers and we found dozens of sensitive documents from tenants of the building tossed casually in a completely unsecured recycle bin in a back alley.

The State Department of Labor & Industries was one of the worst offenders. We found documents from inside their office that included names and Social Security numbers, health and injury claims, and copies of business checks complete with account and routing numbers.

And that was just the start. We asked Office Manager Herb Reeves why these documents hadn't been shredded and he said, "Our policy (is) that they all get shredded, so I'm really shocked to see this."

Reeves agreed to accompany us out to the back of the building so we could show him the unsecured recycling area. "We'll definitely follow up on this immediately," he said. "It's very important."

We also found sensitive documents from the Washington State Employees Credit Union, where we got the Lippel's information, and the Court of Appeals. Like all of the building's tenants, they are supposed to destroy the documents with on-site shredders.

Court Clerk David Ponzoha said what we found concerned him. "I'm going to see that type of information doesn't get out."

Our tipster said they were "totally appalled" by the situation and that in spite of many orders to shred documents they still find sensitive information in the outside recycle bin all the time.

"Somebody has to really do something to get it to stop," the person said.

Lyle Lippel agrees. "How can they not get rid of this stuff?"

The Washington State Employees Credit Union told me that this is a wake-up call for them, and that in spite of their controls these kinds of lapses can still happen.

They are reviewing the documents we found and their disposal practices at all of their locations.