DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — Medical records for hundreds of patients were found dumped along the side of a road in South Fulton County.
Channel 2 Action News has learned that those records contained everything from Social Security numbers to private medical information.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Justin Gray tracked down where the records came from. Hope Medical told, LLC him they moved the records to self-storage after a fire at their facility but didn’t pay the bill on time for the storage unit.
When Gray went out to the facility, he found hundreds of patient files marked personal and confidential from the Hope Medical in Stone Mountain, some 30 miles away.
Gray reached out to Alvin Phillips after finding his file in the pile.
“It almost kind of tells you no matter how cautious you are, your information can still end up in anybody’s hands,” Phillips said.
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Pam Dixon is the executive director for the World of Privacy forum, a nonprofit that has been warning about dangers of medical identity theft.
“It’s very, very hard to understand how something like that would happen. It’s really problematic,” Dixon told Gray.
Union City police showed up to the facility after Gray was there and the officers took secure custody of the records that were full of patients’ person information.
So how did the medical files end up dumped?
Hope Medical said the files were moved to the storage unit following a fire at their office in 2018, but “There was an outstanding and overdue three months balance owed the storage facility. When the money was finally available for payment, the storage informed us that the clinic was a couple of days late, that the contents were sold off.”
Among those contents, the records contained everything a person would need to commit identity theft.
The Federal Health and Human Services inspector general can levy civil penalties for violating HIPAA laws in cases like this.
HIPAA says doctors have to protect the privacy of those records for 50 years.
“If someone steals your medical identity, it can really, really cause problems. Debt collectors may come after you for surgeries or services you never had,” Dixon said.
Union City police are investigating the incident.
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