|One man's trash may be another man's treasure, but concerns were raised in south Florida when a mortgage broker pitched hundreds of records into the garbage after he was let go.
An employee from GMAC Real Estate allegedly tossed records from Elite Lending's Port St. Lucie branch office in the trash. The records contained sensitive personal information on more than 30 Elite Lending customers.
Apparently the documents were discovered in a dumpster and recovered before any of the customers' information was circulated.
"The potential for a very damaging situation seems to have been averted but is frightening and concerning none the less," Elite Lending President Daniel J. Poulos said in a written statement provided to MortgageDaily.com. "I have been serving the mortgage needs of this community for nearly 20 years and my business is built solely on what has become a very respectable reputation for integrity and diligence."
On the evening of June 3rd Poulos said he received a phone call from Port St. Lucie, Fla. police that mortgage files from his firm had been found in the bottom of a rain soaked trash dumpster.
Poulos said a mortgage broker working for him "terminated his relationship as a Realtor for GMAC and while cleaning out his desk, improperly disposed of some copies of client disclosures which contain non-public information."
The GMAC branch manager told Poulos that the employee would be destroying the files, not simply tossing them in the trash.
Elite Lending has a secure storage and "shred everything" policy that should have been applied to the files.
"At the time I perceived this as an exercise of very poor judgment, which could have been devastating had the wrong person gained access to the discarded files," Poulos said.
Poulos said because of the broker's "negligence in improperly disposing of files, his broker relationship with Elite Lending has been suspended pending further investigation."
The broker has worked at the company for a year but only submitted 22 loans, Poulos said.
A local newspaper was given access to the files by police and began calling customers. Poulos said the authorities should have given him the files so his company could have informed the customers and apologized.
Customers would also have been told that the files were then secure; that they could request a free credit report to check on any unauthorized activity; and they could learn how to place a fraud alert on their account.
"Our privacy protection policies are strict, posted and enforced," Poulos said. "Fortunately, this potentially dangerous situation was quickly averted."
Identity theft is a problem in Florida.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, Florida was sixth in the nation last year with 92.3 victims of identity theft per 100,000 people. Arizona (142.5), Nevada (125.7), California (122.1), Texas (117.6) and Colorado (95.8) were the top five states.
States with the lowest instances of ID theft were South Dakota (23.2), North Dakota (29.6), Maine (32.2), Vermont (33.5) and West Virginia (34.2).