Junkyard Finds: Did you leave personal information behind?

Junkyard Finds: Did you leave personal information behind?
Photo credit: WDAM
Photo credit: WDAM
Photo credit: WDAM
Photo credit: WDAM
Photo credit: WDAM

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Your car may have been badly damaged in the tornado and possibly sent off to a junkyard. But, did you remember to clean out your car? That crumbled paper or receipt in your backseat could put you at risk.

After checking in with the front office, WDAM 7 News was allowed to walk through an Ellisville salvage yard, unsupervised, to rummage through cars.  Aside from spare parts and damaged windshields, we found personal information that an identity thief would see as a jackpot.

Within minutes on the salvage yard, WDAM 7 News found all kinds of personal documents, including a social security card, a Mississippi auto insurance card, bank receipts with account numbers, college transcripts and prescription pill bottles.

"If you were someone who wanted to steal another person's identity, you would have all the information on hand to do it," said Meredith Aldridge, director of the Consumer Protection Division with the Attorney General's Office.

Aldridge said that information is all someone would need to hack into an account or open a new one.

She said during times of a natural disaster, like a tornado, or in car accidents, consumers may lose their physical documents with personal information.

"Unfortunately, it's a lot easier than we'd like to believe," Aldridge said.  "With a few simple pieces of information, like an account number, a password, or a birth date, an identify thief could have all the information to take over an existing account or open a new account in your name."

There was a sign posted before entering the salvage yard at Rogers Auto Supply, telling visitors to check-in with the front office. An employee at the front desk quickly gave our crew the OK to explore.

A manager with Rogers Auto Supply said the area is supervised with security cameras at all hours of the day, and they lock the gate at night.

The Mississippi Attorney General's Office has a special unit to help consumers with tips on how to avoid falling victim to identity theft and what to do if you think someone has stolen your personal information.

National Consumer Protection Week is in March. If you have personal documents you need to get rid of, you can do that during the 11th annual statewide Community Shred Days on March 10-11.

Consumers may bring up to three bags or boxes of sensitive documents to be shredded. The event is a first-come, first-served service for consumer's personal and sensitive documents from their households.

You can drop your documents off here:

Friday, March 10

Starting at 8 am – noon
WalMart Supercenter
6072 US Hwy 98
Hattiesburg, MS 39401