Careless disposal puts personal info at risk

Personal Information Dumped

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Imagine your personal information getting out, wherever the wind takes it. Quite literally, that happened to hundreds of people, until a good Samaritan stepped in to get it stopped with the help of KHON2.

A seemingly routine business shutdown turned into a potentially serious breach of personal and financial information, with other innocent businesses and consumers as the victims.

Angela Ishitani knows a mess when she sees it. She helps clean a Kalihi-area office building at night. This weekend, the parking lot was full of little scraps of paper that turned into a big mystery.

“I’d say more than 50, but maybe almost 100,” Ishitani said. “When I looked more closely at it, it had people’s information on there, personal information, and it just felt kind of weird “

It turns out, they were contest entry forms with labels of various radio stations of just about every major station operator in town.

Ishitani and her crew cleaned it up, threw it properly away and thought that was the end of it. But then Tuesday night…

“Again, I find a whole lot of papers. Same things,” Ishitani said, “with people’s information all over again, more or less this time, a little bit less, but still a decent amount to clean up.”

The thing is, the Dillingham building is nowhere near any corporate radio offices, so KHON2 headed over to try to figure out what was going on.

Sure enough, the same kinds of papers strewn across the lot.

KHON2 followed the trail to the source — broken bags full of office and countertop stuff from the former Sizzler restaurant that operated briefly as a Goko.

As for those contest entry forms? Looks like the restaurant collected them and never turned them into the stations from years ago. Those entrants never got that chance to see “Beauty and the Beast 2010,” but if it weren’t for Ishitani, a beast of a problem could have happened to any one of the people if that info got in the wrong hands.

“Any type of personal information is not good,” she said. “They don’t want people soliciting their addresses, names phone numbers, people don’t want calls from random people harassing them.”

The contest entries were far from the worst things there. KHON2 found human-resources files, healthcare-related documentation, tax papers, even bank account stamps with numbers and names.

“Hawaii has a statute requiring destruction of records containing personal information,” said Bruce Kim of the state Office of Consumer Protection, “Your name, as well as a combination of three other factors which would be your Social Security number, your driver’s license number or personal identification card number, or checking account or debit card, credit card or pin account numbers.”

“This seems to tread dangerously close to that line,” Kim added, “and just as a matter of good practice and common sense that they would want to shred that information before they disposed of it.”

The Office of Consumer Protection says it’s a good reminder for businesses to handle all information with care.

The former Sizzler owner told KHON2 the cleanout happened after they gave up possession of the building. KHON2 asked the site manager to tell us what happened next and why.

As for other businesses victimized by the data dump, Clear Channel Communications — one of several affected radio groups — jumped right in and sent somebody down Wednesday to clean up the mess that wasn’t theirs to begin with.

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