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Cole Investigative Agency Blog

Here we would like to post information and articles you might find useful in your search for more information surrounding our business. Please feel free to contact us with questions or comments you have after reading the information.

Personal data at risk, Study found
added: November 11th, 2010
from the Toronto Star

This is an article I found in the Toronto Star that provide information on how doctors offices, car dealers, etc., throw personal records in dumpsters, exposing clients to fraud and identity theft. This information is something everyone should know.

Some doctors’ offices and car dealers in the Greater Toronto Area got a failing grade after private investigators found easily accessible personal records in their dumpsters. The data could be used to steal someone’s identity exposing them to potential credit card, mortgage and health care fraud, an association of secure document disposal companies warned Thursday. Most organizations, especially large banks and hospitals, are doing a good job of disposing of sensitive data properly, the study for the National Association of Information Destruction – Canada found. Only 7 of the 50 dumpsters investigated outside various offices, including lawyers, accountants, mortgage brokers and employment agencies, contained personal documents, the study found. Many dumpsters were kept under lock and key or contained only shredded documents or documents that contained no personal information, according to the study.

“Things are a lot better, but they also need to be a lot better,” said Bob Johnson, executive vice-president of the association. “Any information being found in this day and age is inexcusable.” Most of the problems occur in smaller organizations, he said. Particularly troubling was the number of doctors’ offices and car dealerships that are throwing out sensitive information, the association said. “Medical identity theft is a real and growing problem,” Johnson said investigators found 3 out of four doctors’ offices investigated had put personal data in their dumpsters, including people’s names, dates of birth, addresses, phone numbers, health card numbers, medical test results and prescriptions. “It wouldn’t take a lot of imagination to say you’re talking about tens of thousands of doctors office across Canada are casually discarding medical information,” Johnson said. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario said doctors are required by law to safely dispose of personal records.

“We recommend all physicians shred all paper records and electronic records must be permanently deleted from all hard drives,” said Kathryn Clarke, a spokesperson for the college. She acknowledged the college “occasionally” receives reports of personal medical records being improperly disposed of.

“Say the physician hasn’t shredded the information and it gets disposed of in a bag that is then blown down the street. That’s typically how we hear about that sort of thing,” Clarke said. The college contacts the physician and advises them how to rectify the situation, she said. At one of three extended health care facilities investigated, the dumpster contained personal information on “hundreds” of residents, the study found. If someone steals your medical identity to obtain health care services for themselves, it can alter your medical record with potential disastrous results, Johnson warned. He gave the example of someone allergic to penicillin who goes in for emergency treatment after his records have been altered to remove any reference to the potentially life-threatening allergy. Both of the car dealership dumpsters investigated contained “numerous” client files in unsecured garbage bins, the study found. The data included names, dates of birth and drivers’ license information. Thieves can use car dealership data to change your vehicle registration, obtain a new key and steal your car, the association said. Illegal immigrants are stealing people’s ID to get jobs, the association said.

The association acknowledged its sample size was relatively small but it believes it is representative. “We may have found the only three doctors offices in Canada that are casually disposing of information, but I doubt it,” Johnson said. The association said Canada has good laws that require personal information to be destroyed before being discarded, but enforcement is lacking. Consumers can help protect themselves by asking how their personal information will be disposed of. The association said it decided to hire investigators to actually inspect dumpsters, rather than simply ask companies how they dispose of their documents because companies tend to overstate their practices. It said it broke no laws in doing so.

added: March 10th, 2010

Most of the “Background Check” and People Finder web sites that you will find on the internet are nothing more than sites that automatically search through FREE public record sources or buy old outdated information and resell it to you at 20 times the cost.

This is particularly true for the “Instant background check” companies. The results they give you: Fast but meaningless data or data that is comprised of information you likely already knew. Ironically, they forget to tell you that there is little or no chance that their background check will find anything meaningful and that the super people finder search will only find old addresses that you already knew about. The companies that sell this type of information are data brokers, not licensed private investigators and cannot give you the accuracy you want.

It’s Important to have a good National Background Check!
added: February 2nd, 2010

A reliable criminal background investigation is much more than an internet search of instant databases.

Many employers rely only on so-called “national” or “nationwide” criminal record databases. These databases, compiled by large data brokers, contain limited information from a few counties and state criminal records repositories and often miss more records to the wrong people.

Likewise, most states’ criminal records repositories are incomplete and should not be relied upon as a stand-alone background investigation. In fact, as few as 40% of the criminal records found in Texas’ county courthouses appear in Texas’ state criminal records database. Also, the records found are consistently missing information key to a fill understand of the case.

Databases are great…as one source of potential criminal records. A reliable background investigation will only use databases in conjunction with the most accurate sources of criminal histories: the actual records of the court.