Tuesday, May 8, 2007

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Attorney General Abbott Cracks Down on Identity Theft; Takes Action Against Pawn Shop Chain For Exposing Records

SAN ANTONIO – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott took legal action Tuesday against Texas-based EZCORP Inc., and its subsidiary, EZPAWN, for systematically exposing its customers to identity theft. According to documents filed by the Attorney General, EZCORP violated the law by repeatedly failing to protect customer records that contain sensitive personal information.

Investigators with the Office of the Attorney General discovered that several San Antonio EZPAWN stores exposed customers’ personal identifying information by discarding business records in easily accessible trash cans behind the stores. According to investigators, the records included promissory notes and bank statements that contained names, addresses, Social Security and driver’s license numbers, and checking account information.

“Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States,” Attorney General Abbott said. “Texans expect their personal information to remain confidential. The Office of the Attorney General will take all necessary steps to protect consumers from identity thieves.”

Media links

Video of
News Conference

EZPAWN credit application
found in dumpster
(Click to enlarge)
Legal action against EZPAWN

Investigators also found evidence of similar instances of improper document dumping at a dozen other EZPAWN locations around the state, including stores in Austin, Houston, Lubbock and the Rio Grande Valley.

The defendants are accused of violating the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA) and the 2005 Identity Theft Enforcement and Protection Act, which requires the safeguarding and proper destruction of clients’ sensitive personal information. Under the law, the Office of the Attorney General has the authority to seek penalties of up to $25,000 per violation of the DTPA and $50,000 per violation of the Identity Theft Enforcement and Protection Act.

The Attorney General also charged EZCORP and EZPAWN 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.

The Office of the Attorney General is investigating whether any exposed data has been used illegally. Consumers who interacted with EZPAWN stores should carefully monitor bank, credit card and any similar statements for evidence of suspicious activity. Customers should also obtain free copies of their credit reports.

Consumers who wish to file a complaint may contact the Office of the Attorney General at (800) 252-8011 or do so online at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov, where they can also obtain information on identity theft detection and prevention.

Today’s legal action against EZCORP is the Office of the Attorney General’s fifth identity theft enforcement action in recent weeks. In April, Attorney General Abbott took legal action against CVS/pharmacy and RadioShack Corporation for exposing hundreds of customers to identity theft by failing to properly dispose of records that contained sensitive information. In March, the Attorney General filed an enforcement action against Jones Beauty College in Dallas for improperly discarding student financial aid forms with Social Security numbers and other personal information. Also in March, Attorney General Abbott took legal action against On Track Modeling, a North Carolina-based talent agency that abruptly shut down its Grand Prairie office and abandoned more than 60 boxes containing hundreds of confidential client records.