The FBI investigates a dumpster full of medical records in Georgia

04 March 2013


The FBI is investigating a dumpster full of medical documents that Channel 2’s Ross Cavitt found outside an office complex in Hiram.

Cavitt called authorities after finding the documents full of people’s sensitive identification and medical information. The caller who gave Cavitt the tip said the documents were in the dumpster all weekend. Someone also might have dumped other boxes in the past 48 hours, the caller said.

Cavitt didn’t have to dive in too far to find Social Security numbers, addresses, dates of birth and bank account information. There were also documents with private health information.

Cavitt called the Hiram Police Department. Police came and started contacting the offices listed on those documents.

“I need to get those records out of there because they were placed in their incorrectly,” a Channel 2 Action News camera recorded an officer saying.

One man told police he was with one of the nearby offices involved and wanted to clean out the dumpster, but police kept it sealed off as they tried to figure out what to do with it all.

It appears the documents Cavitt found came from two separate medical offices in the Hiram complex, including an orthopedic office and Family Intervention Services, which deals with juvenile issues. Coincidentally, they had both just moved out.

Federal regulations of the so-called protected health information spell out clear rules on how such documents are supposed to be shredded, burned, or pulverized so that it’s rendered essentially unreadable, indecipherable, and otherwise cannot be reconstructed.

David McBride runs a loan business and has a licensed and bonded company destroy all of his outdated documents. He worries for those whose records were found in the dumpster.

“I’m very concerned. I have seen people go through dumpsters before, but all of ours is secure and it’s all under lock and key,” McBride said.

Cavitt got no immediate comment from the two medical companies that appear to be involved. Meanwhile, Hiram police said with no local laws in play, they turned to the feds.

“At this time we’ve contacted the FBI field office in Rome, and they got into contact with us stating that they are going to send an agent down to look at this case, and hopefully they’ll take it over from there,” Hiram police Lt. Brian Acree said.

In the meantime, the records were staying in the sealed off area.

Federal regulations said violators can face significant fines, which vary depending upon the circumstances.

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