Attorney general's dumpster-diving snares third big score
AUSTIN -- Companies in Texas should soon start to get the message that attorney general Greg Abbott is growing a little edgy about identity theft.
In some cases, like Fort Worth-based electronics-retailing giant RadioShack, it might come the hard way.
RadioShack has been hit with two charges relating to violating 2005 identity-protection laws, Abbott announced in a press release Monday. One carries a maximum penalty of $50,000 per violation.
Abbott alleges the employees of the Portland RadioShack store, near Corpus Christi, dumped 20 boxes of documents containing thousands of sensitive customer records into trash bins behind the store.
He said the documents contained customers' names, addresses and telephone numbers linked to Social Security numbers (SSNs) debit-card and credit-card information.
"Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States," Abbott stated. "The Office of the Attorney General will take all necessary steps to ensure that consumers are protected from identity thieves.
Like other state attorneys-general over recent months, Abbott has keyed on identity-theft issues as a major agenda item for 2007. LegalNewsLine recently reported that Abbott's zeal had upset Texas bureaucrats after he ruled that SSNs be "redacted" from all public documents.
And several weeks ago Abbott landed a one-two punch on identity protection by charging two companies on consecutive days for very similar breaches to those alleged against RadioShack.
Talent agency On Track Modeling in Grand Prairie was charged with abandoning confidential client records March 13. Dallas-based Jones Beauty College improperly discarded documents containing SSNs, Abbott alleged the next day.
RadioShack, which operates 4,500 stores nationwide, has been charged with violating Texas's 2005 Identity Theft Enforcement and Protection Act. The Act requires companies to securely hold and destroy personal data and carries penalties up to $50,000 per violation.
Abbott also charged RadioShack with violating Chapter 35 of the state's Business and Commerce Code, which require businesses to develop procedures for securely holding and destroying documents. Breaches attract civil penalties of $500 per abandoned record.
RadioShack area VP Steve Schmidt told InformationWeek yesterday that the Portland incident was an "isolated instance" and that all Texas stores have a shredding program in place "as required by Texas law."
The attorney general's office is still investigating whether any crimes were committed using identities stolen from RadioShack's trash.