Junkyard identity theft on the rise

Junkyard identity theft on the rise

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Around 11 million cars are scrapped every year before making it to their final resting place - a junkyard.

"The cars are moved here from collision scenes to a body shop, usually," said junkyard owner, Dale Ladner. "And from there, if the car's a totaled, they're moved to an auction and we buy them from the auction and transport them here."

Ladner says most car owners never see their totaled vehicles again.

"Very rarely do the injured in the accidents get a chance to come back and follow up and see their vehicle, or dig through them," added Ladner, who says not seeing the vehicle again can be a big mistake.

WLOX News Now searched through what seemed like hundreds of wrecked cars at a Biloxi junkyard; in search of anything that can be used as a paper trail to a person's identity. Hundreds of documents were found containing social security numbers, drivers license numbers and even bank statements.

However, some call the sensitive information discoveries normal for junkyards.

"Over the years we've found everything from personal bibles, to expired credit cards, love letters," said Ladner. "Nowadays with identity theft, you find social security numbers. Not much more you need to go the wrong direction."

Gulfport Attorney Rufus Alldredge considers what some may call carelessness to be extremely dangerous.

"What criminals are looking for is what we call PII; that means personally identifiable Information. For example: name, address, date of birth, social security numbers and anything else they can use to try and figure out their personal identity," said Alldredge. "These are all kind of things that identity thieves would like to use to put the pieces together on the puzzle of who a person is so they can go scam that person," said Alldredge.

At High Gear Towing in Gulfport, there were even more documents people have left in cars.

"We run into anything from social security cards, bank cards, credit cards, driver licenses, birth certificates. All types of things," said High Gear Towing owner, David Reddell.

An attorney for more than 10 years, Alldredge has dealt with many identity theft cases, something he sees increasing every year.

"Unfortunately, it's getting more common. I've defended those cases in state court and federal court, and I can tell you from experience that we see cases with tens and hundreds of thousands of PPI's," said Alldredge.

In order to avoid having your identity stolen, people can take precautionary measures after an accident.

"If they're able, they should request to see their vehicle and get a chance to retrieve any document. At least dig through it and get personal belongings out, or anything that could hurt them in the long run," said Ladner.

Tow owners also recommend that drivers keep a towing company's number in their cell phones at all times in the event that they have an accident.

"The better practice would be to destroy this, shredding is one of the most common ways. You can burn it, but not just leave it out so the world can get to it," said Alldredge.

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