Police are investigating a possible privacy breach after a Victoria sporting goods business tossed boxes upon boxes of personal information in a downtown cardboard recycling bin.
Six boxes, which contained sensitive private information including social insurance numbers and bank and health records, were discovered by a CTV employee in the bin behind Sports Traders on Pembroke Street Wednesday night.
“I looked into this dumpster and I could see these file folders, and you could clearly see people’s names on them,” said Ross Butcher. “The boxes were plainly open, and you could see employee files in there.”
Butcher reported the discovery to Victoria Police, who have since collected the boxes.
Victoria Police said Butcher averted potentially significant identity theft and fraud, and in a statement today noted “We do not have any information right now that would lead us to believe that the public’s information is at risk, and our detective division is actively investigating.”
“It is very likely that [the CTV] staff member did prevent further frauds and identity thefts, and we are grateful for their call," the statement said.
Greg Penno, the owner of Sports Traders, admitted to tossing out the boxes, chalking it up to a simple mix-up.
“It was good they found it, I think there’s no harm done,” he said. “It is the wrong thing to do obviously and I made a mistake, I mixed up the boxes, but I think ultimately, they would just go to the recycle bin and get chewed up there.”
Penno was cleaning up the attic of his store when he came across the boxes, which he said he thought contained invoices from the store’s old owner.
At least one of the boxes was clearly labelled “Employee Payroll.”
“I didn’t bother opening the boxes,” he said. “I just kind of assumed that that’s what they would be. There were quite a few of them up there, so I didn’t bother to actually open them.”
He said police contacted him Wednesday night to let him know they found the sensitive documents.
A local lawyer told CTV News the store owner should be grateful that a criminal didn’t get their hands on the information.
“The business owner would have some potential liability if fraud resulted or loss resulted from carelessly disposing of material like that,” said Michael Mulligan.
As for Butcher, he’s just glad he came across the documents and avoided potential identity theft.
“We got a mark in the ‘win’ column for the good guys,” he said. “No one wants to get their identity stolen. It takes a long time to build up.”
With a report from CTV Vancouver Island’s Robert Buffam