A recent investigation found that a local Goodwill has found an interesting way to make a little extra money: selling donors' personal information.
Indiana NBC affiliate WTHR reports that legal records, credit cards, and tax documents that had been accidentally donated to Goodwill centers were on display and available for purchase at stores. The news station sent in secret shoppers to the stores that on numerous occasions purchased boxes of old personal documents.
One shopper, Emily Watson, bought a box of documents from the store containing almost any information she would need to steal the donor’s identity.
"This all belongs to one family. I have their social security numbers. I have their pictures and addresses and children's information. And I pulled it all out of a bin at Goodwill," she said. "I specified exactly what was in here. I specifically said there were social security numbers, birthdates … The manager looked through it and said ‘It doesn't look harmful to me. It's OK.' So I bought it. If I left it there, who was gonna get it? I wanted to take it home because I felt bad for the people who took it there."
Watson paid $27.69 for the family’s paperwork.
WTHR took their findings to the Indiana Metro Police. Sgt. Eric Eads, who specializes in identity theft, was shocked.
"This is bad. Really bad. You have every single document you would need in here to go and portray yourself as these people, to create an entire identity using their information based on this paperwork," he said. "It's just shocking the amount of social security numbers and tax records you found.
"…Please stop selling this, for everyone's sake. This is crazy. I just can't believe they would sell this stuff.”
The news station contacted the people whose information they’d purchased. Every single one of them said the documents had been donated on accident. Nevertheless, they were shocked to see their personal information was available for purchase.
"They should know better than to put someone's personal information out for someone to get ahold of," one customer said. "How hard would it be for them to shred this?"
Goodwill is now reporting that they’ve launched an internal investigation on the matter.
"We do take this very seriously. Your investigation started our investigation," said a Goodwill representative. "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 it.'"