Audit Uncovers Personal Information Illegally Discarded

May 20, 2013 Updated May 20, 2013 at 9:12 PM EDT

By WKBW Admin

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May 20, 2013 Updated May 20, 2013 at 9:12 PM EDT

Buffalo, NY (WKBW) - An audit reveals that confidential records of thousands of Erie County residents were left outside of a government building.

The records were in boxes, and easily accessible to anyone walking by.

These documents from the Erie County Department of Social Services included copies of birth certificates, passports, tax records and medical records.

Copies of private records of Erie County residents that used the Department of Social Services, were left in boxes and totes in a sub-basement of the Rath Building that went unsecured for years.

Workers then put many of those un-shredded documents at the Loading Dock on West Eagle Street for recycling.

Many people walk by that area.

The Erie County Comptroller says the scariest part of all this -- the Department of Social Services tried stone-walling auditors because of the sensitivity of these personal documents.

"What's so scary, is that the confidential documents that supposedly were so super-secret that auditors couldn't look at, the Department of Social Services was basically throwing in the trash," says Stefan Mychajliw (R). "Unsecured boxes, unsecured totes -- an identity thief's dream."

Mychajliw says the Department of Social Services has changed how it handles confidential records.

The investigation began during an audit of DSS, which is still ongoing.

The Erie County Comptroller says employees re-certifying those in need of temporary assistance gave the go-ahead without checking for eligibility.