Northbrook firm dumped medical records in unlocked trash container: Madigan
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed suit Tuesday, May 5, against a Northbrook firm, accusing it of failing to destroy medical records it was charged with managing – and instead just dumping them in the garbage.
The attorney general is seeking fines against FileFax, Inc. 3405 Commercial Ave., accusing it of throwing the medical records of thousands of people into an unlocked garbage container behind the building in the Sky Harbor business park.
The attorney general's investigation apparently started, according to the complaint, "on or about Feb. 6," when "an individual by the name of Halina By siek" took 1,100 pounds of paper out of the container and brought it to another Sky Harbor business, seeking cash for recycled material.
"When she brought it all in, I thought, 'That's all medical records,'"Paul Kaufmann, owner of Shred Spot, 3141 MacArthur Blvd., said Wednesday, May 6. "They 're dumping medical records."
Kaufmann called his trade association, the National Association for Information Destruction, and asked what his next move should be, he said.
"It's a violation of state privacy laws, "he said. "So I called the attorney general. They 're the ones that enforce them."
The owner of the medical records in question is Suburban Lung Associates, which said in a prepared statement that the company is cooperating with the investigation into FileFax. "We believe this is an isolated incident, only involving records of patients last seen in 2004," the release said.
"We mailed letters to individuals who were potentially impacted, issued a press release to media, and posted information on our website in order to reach any individuals whose names or mailing addresses were unavailable. We have offered credit monitoring and identity theft protection for potentially impacted individuals. We have set up a toll-free number to address questions," the company said.
Suburban Lung, which provides medical care for clients with lung, allergy and sleep problems, has offices in Elk Grove Village, Winfield, Naperville, Arlington Heights, Plainfield and Yorkville.
Representatives of FileFax could not be reached for comment.
"This company brazenly violated the law and jeopardized the personal information and privacy of thousands of Illinois residents,"Madigan said in a release.
The complaint asserts that the failure to protect the records is a violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act, and a court may fine the firm $50,000 for each instance of violation of the law. An additional fine of $10,000 applies if the victim in question is a senior citizen, according to Madigan's release.
Under the state Personal Information Protection Act, each record could bring a $100 fine, up to a total of$50,000, according to the complaint.
"This is horrible, "Kaufmann said. "All these people's information – driver's licenses, Social Security, everything. That's the reason there are businesses like ours."
According to the attorney general's complaint, By siek asked permission from an employee of FileFax before taking the half ton of paper away.
The attorney general found about 1,500 medical records at Shred Spot, according to the complaint.
The complaint further states that a few days after the incident, a reporter looked in the FileFax trash container and found Suburban Lung medical records there