Personal files containing financial data mistakenly sold at Goodwill stores

As the holiday approaches I begin to clean out my house.  I do this for several reasons.  First, I know that with the holidays there is going be some presents underneath the tree that are going to need so space to be stored in when they are not being played with.  I also know that especially during the winter months and holiday season charitable organizations are in big demand and can use all the help they can get in the form of monetary as well as physical donations to help meet the needs of the hundreds that call upon them.  Last but not least, I don’t like anything to go to waste and the coat my daughter wore four times (it doesn’t get really cold here in Houston) and has now outgrown doesn’t belong in the trash, but it does belong on another little girl who could use one.  But with all this peace on Earth and good will towards man, it’s important to pay attention to what’s going out the door and into the hands of others.

We have talked before about the importance of clearing your electronics like cell phones and computers of information, personal data and stored information and images.  But what I never imagined I would find is that important papers could be lost and then found again, but quite possibly the wrong person as many of us clean out closets and make donations.

NBC News recently reported about a purchase made at an Indiana Goodwill Outlet Store.  Edith Watson purchased a box during a bulk sale not knowing what it contained, but they were selling it for pennies per pound.  Hoping to find something good, she realized after she got home that if she was an identity thief she definitely would have “struck it rich” as the entire box contained document after document of financial information, social security numbers, credit card bills, medical records and more. After reporting it to her local televisions station a look at other Goodwill locations occurred, finding that this was not a singular incident.

Yahoo News reports:

Goodwill’s Marketing Vice President Cindy Graham admitted their mistake and told WTHR, “We do take this very seriously…They don’t want us to have it and we don’t really want to have it either.” Policy changes are on the way after the charity completes their internal investigation. Cindy Graham said, “We’re going to take a look and see how we can prevent that from happening. Our process would have been and should have been and will be, ‘Let’s shred this.’” She also adds that Goodwill encourages all donors to be cognizant of what they are donating so that sensitive documents do not mistakenly end up at their retail stores.

How did this happen?  Several different ways including cleaning out the home of a deceased family member and the cleaning service not properly disposing of or passing the information on to the family. In another case boxes marked for storage were sent to Goodwill instead of storage.  Apparently theses boxes were never inspected by Goodwill, simply placed in the outlet stores.

Graham told the Indy Star, “We’re looking at every one of our processes,” she said, “and seeing what needs to be done differently so that there isn’t a gap and that material that was donated doesn’t get into the wrong hands.”

I think it’s happened to everyone. You are cleaning out drawers and dressers, closets and desks and make stacks of to go, to stay to donate.  I know in our home one of my daughter’s beloved characters for her homemade videos were accidentally donated.  Not exactly on the same level as letting my personal documents out of my hands, but it’s just a small example of how anyone can make a mistake.

So, keep in mind this holiday season as you show goodwill toward men to double check your boxes, computers, cell phones and other items for anything personal.  It’s one thing to be charitable, it’s another thing to have your whole identity stolen.


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