Palm Beach State College students' Social Security numbers found at area thrift store

College staff apologizes for mistake

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - The investigation into who was ultimately responsible for leaving Social Security numbers out for sale on a Habitat for Humanity floor store, started with a phone call from a viewer, and ended at one of the area's local colleges.

A filing cabinet, three drawers full of papers, sat on the North Military Habitat for Humanity store floor for who knows how long, and for anyone to dig through.

To many, what they were looking at, might have been trash. But to the wrong person, it's treasure. 

"Go on the black market and sell it (a Social Security number) for $50, done. I've just hit the mother load. I have the golden pot at the end of the rainbow," says security expert David Parizek. "I can take that information and go spend thousands and thousands of dollars and just run away with it and never pay the bill and someone else is stuck with the problem."

To stop that from happening, Contact 5 bought the cabinet for $40. Inside we found 36 social security numbers, in all, as well as addresses, phone numbers, and even insurance information, belonging to students and vendors from Palm Beach State College. The documents all came from their purchasing department. 
 
That includes all of George Showak's personal information. We went to his home and told him where we'd find his Social Security number.  "Huh, I didn't know they carried those things. I bought a bowling ball there once," said Showak. 
 
Showak, a musician from Boca, once signed contracts to play at Palm Beach State College. That, was seven years ago. He didn't realize they didn't still have their hands on his information.

"I'm taken aback, I'm not surprised that people are cavalier and casual about these things, but in the meantime, it is irresponsible," says Showak. "So where do we go from here?"
 
On behalf of Showak, and the 35 other names we found in the cabinet, Contact 5 went to Palm Beach State College, where we gave officials there a few days to look over what we found, sharing copies of the documents with them. 
 
Tabatha McDonald, a spokesperson for Palm Beach State College said the school routinely donates old equipment. The cabinet in question came from the purchasing department, was sent to the finance department and then donated to Habitat. 
 
"In this case, the department that had the filing cabinet should have made sure that the drawers were empty before it was given," said McDonald.  "We're going to let them (the students and vendors) know this will never happen again because we have already enhanced our procedures and we'll continue to review and refine those procedures. "
 
The college will now require every employee to fill out a checklist before they donate any materials. This will ensure they've checked the product, like computers, cabinets, or phones, for any sensitive information.

Palm Beach State College has also created a committee that will specifically look at all departments' policies regarding record retention and disposal, and change them if need be.

To the students and vendors whose information was found in the cabinet, they've offered free credit monitoring for a year.

For their protection, Contact 5 has shredded all materials found in the cabinet. 

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