Target 11 investigates confidential information apparently found on street corner in West End

Updated:

Loading
PITTSBURGH —

Documents with confidential information including names, addresses and even Social Security numbers were apparently found a street corner sitting next to a dumpster in the West End.

Target 11 Investigator Rick Earle has been looking into this alarming story and the possibility that someone's identity could be compromised.

With identity theft on the rise, Earle said, this is pretty scary stuff. A resident contacted Target 11 saying he had discovered boxes of documents from a non-profit development agency in the West End of Pittsburgh. He said the documents, including names and Social Security numbers, were sitting right out in the open next to a dumpster on a public sidewalk.

"They contained people's Social Security numbers, row after row of them," West End resident and community activist Carl Suter told Target 11 Investigator Rick Earle.

Suter said he discovered the documents on a street corner in the West End in front of the former officers of the West Pittsburgh Partnership, a non-profit community development group in the West End.

"Since I've been looking at this organization for a number of years, I figured I'd just stop and look through some of the piles, and there was some interesting stuff," said Suter, who's been an outspoken critic of the West Pittsburgh Partnership.

"These were documents lying on the sidewalk next to the dumpster. These people should have shredded these documents, especially with identity theft today," said Suter, who documented what he discovered by photographing the scene.

Target 11 Investigator Earle was able to track down one of the people named in the documents. Earle showed the man a piece of paper with a Social Security number and the man confirmed it was indeed his.

"I don't like to see my Social Security number anywhere unless it's in a shredder. That's the only place I like to see it," the man told Earle.

We wanted to know why the documents with confidential information were apparently next to a dumpster. So we went to the new officers of the West Pittsburgh Partnership to get some answers, but the executive director told us she couldn't comment, so we left our contact information for the board president.

We did hear from the West Pittsburgh Partnership's attorney, Maurice Nernberg. In an email letter, Nernberg said the organization is in the process of investigating just how these documents were taken, and whether any criminal activity was involved.

But Nernberg would not answer any more questions about the documents.

"It's very alarming," said Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith. She told Target 11 that a board member told her that a cleaning crew put the boxes of documents next to the dumpster for disposal.

"They should have been shredded at the very least, and I think they should have made sure that whoever cleaned out that building was notified of the paperwork inside and how sensitive the personal information contained inside was," said Kail-Smith, who cut off council funding to the West Pittsburgh Partnership several years ago because of what she called a lack of transparency.

Most of the documents with the personal information appeared to be from a job placement program dating back to 1992.

The resident we spoke with said he's reluctant to return the documents to the organization, but he said he will give them to Kail-Smith or to an independent third party to make sure the information is properly destroyed.