Tax documents with personal information found in dumpster

By Joel Eisenbaum - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - A Houston tax preparer linked to hundreds of improperly discarded documents containing personal information said that an employee was to blame for the improper disposal.

"It's an employee. I don't know what else to tell you," said Bill Hernandez, owner of Bill's Bookkeeping Service.

BBS Inc. has two locations in Houston. One of the offices at 4800 West 34th St. in northwest Houston is just a few steps from where the documents were found.

The discarded tax paperwork contains Social Security numbers, names, addresses, tax identification numbers and a bevy of information that many people prefer to remain confidential.

An anonymous tipster alerted Local 2 and the Houston Police Department about the documents.

A police officer recovered at least one box of paperwork Monday. Several other boxes placed in and around a dumpster were presumably picked up by a garbage truck.

State law requires private businesses to do more than just throw out sensitive information. The law calls for businesses to shred "or otherwise make unreadable" documents that contain personal information.

Fines can be up to $500 per document.

Since the paperwork dealt principally with federal taxes, federal laws could also come into play.

Hernandez said he regretted the error and that he would retrain employees to shred all sensitive documents.

"I have a shredder. One over here, and one over there," Hernandez said.

Hernandez attributed the mistake to a single employee whom he also identified as a family member.

The Houston Police Department's investigation is pending.

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