Thursday, January 10, 2008

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Texas Attorney General Takes Action Against National Health Services Provider to Protect Consumers From Identity Theft

LEVELLAND – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott took legal action today against Select Physical Therapy Texas Limited Partnership and its parent company, Select Medical Corporation, for systematically exposing their customers to identity theft risk. According to documents filed by the Attorney General, the defendants violated a 2005 law requiring them to protect any consumer records that contain sensitive information, including Social Security and bank account numbers.

Investigators with the Office of the Attorney General discovered that Select Physical Therapy Texas Limited Partnership, formerly known as HealthSouth Rehabilitation Center, exposed more than 4,000 pieces of its customers’ sensitive information, including Social Security numbers. The state’s investigation was launched after reports from the Levelland Police Department indicated that bulk customer records were dumped in garbage containers behind a local building. Select Physical Therapy Texas Limited Partnership occupied the building until closing its office in October 2007.

Media links

View Video of News Conference

Defendant's
Dumpster

Sample Documents
in Dumpster
Petition Against Select Medical

Video of Select Medical Dumpster
(Provided by Levelland Police Department)

According to Attorney General investigators, the records also contained credit and debit card information, names, addresses, and telephone numbers. The boxes also contained copies of checks from several large corporations who contracted with Select Physical Therapy Texas Limited Partnership to conduct employee physicals and drug screenings. Investigators also discovered sensitive medical information among the records, including initial evaluation and plan of care forms, insurance verification sheets, drug and alcohol testing verification forms, and social and vocational therapy questionnaires.

“The defendants are charged with improperly – and unlawfully – disposing of sensitive personal information, including medical records,” Attorney General Abbott said. “By failing to comply with the Identity Theft Enforcement and Protection Act, the defendants not only violated the law, they exposed their customers to identity theft. We are grateful to the Levelland Police Department for vigilantly uncovering and reporting the improper disposal of these sensitive records.”

Select Physical Therapy Texas Limited Partnership and Select Medical Corporation are accused of violating provisions of the 2005 Identity Theft Enforcement and Protection Act, which requires businesses to protect and properly dispose of clients’ sensitive personal information. The Act gives the Office of the Attorney General authority to seek penalties of up to $50,000 per violation.

The Attorney General also charged Select Physical Therapy Texas Limited Partnership and Select Medical Corporation with violating Chapter 35 of the Business and Commerce Code, which requires businesses to develop retention and disposal procedures for their clients’ personal information. The law provides for civil penalties of up to $500 for each abandoned record.

Attorney General investigators are also working to determine if any exposed data has been used illegally. Consumers who interacted with the Levelland business should carefully monitor bank, credit card and any similar statements for evidence of theft. Customers should also consider obtaining free copies of their credit reports.

The case is one of several identity theft enforcement actions filed by the Office of the Attorney General. In 2007, Attorney General Abbott filed a similar action against Minnesota-based Life Time Fitness and its subsidiaries for improperly discarding customer records in easily accessible trash cans. He also filed identity theft actions against CVS Pharmacy and RadioShack for improperly dumping customer records.

Attorney General Abbott also obtained temporary injunctions against CNG Financial Corporation, which operates Check ‘n Go stores across Texas, and Texas-based EZPAWN and EZMONEY Loan Services to improve their document disposal systems and protect their customers from identity theft.

Consumers who wish to file a complaint may contact the Office of the Attorney General at (800) 252-8011 or file a complaint online at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov. Consumers can also obtain information on how to detect and prevent identity theft.