Medical records were found in a dumpster outside a Colorado dentist’s office

11 January 2013

AURORA, Colo. — It’s personal information we vigorously protect.

We know in the wrong hands—our social security number and birth date can lead to identity theft.

But what about others we trust to keep that information secret?

A viewer sent FOX31 a tip about medical records tossed in the trash at Southlands in Aurora.

In a place where people shop, some of the most priceless items lie unprotected in this dumpster.

“They should throw all this stuff inside a shredder you know,” says Steven Mendez of Aurora.

He’s talking about his and hundreds of other private dental records, including names, social security numbers, birth dates and addresses.

“It flipped my life around for a while. I had this happen before,” says Mendez.

He and his family battled identity theft seven years ago.

“Tax company told us somebody had already used our social security numbers. So we had to go through the system, through New York, file a police report and wait a few months and found out my 3 year-old daughter bought an Avalanche (pickup),” he says.

The records came from the office of Dr. Sandra Bujanda-Wagner, who told us employees accidentally threw out the wrong records.

“You’re not supposed to throw records away. [Yes], it’s a complete no. It makes me nervous just thinking about it,” she told us inside her office.

And she realizes the potential repercussions for her patients.

“I thank Fox. This could be a huge, huge disaster. If you didn’t come, I wouldn’t know,” she says.

Immediately, those workers are back at the dumpster.

This time, pulling out the same records they just threw away and possibly saving people like Mendez from financing a criminal’s lavish life.

“There’s no such thing as an accident when it comes to a person’s personal identification and information,” says Mendez.

But getting his records back certainly proves less painful than his last trip to the dentist.

“Here you go,” as we hand over his files. “Thank you very much,” he says.

Gary Schwartz, a certified fraud examiner with Betzer, Call, Lausten and Schwartz, says all a thief needs to steal your identity is a name, address, social security number and date of birth.

And to commit medical fraud, and get free health care and prescriptions, they also need your insurance carrier number and medical ID.

The State Dental Board says dentists must destroy their records so they can’t be read, such as by fire or shredding.

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