(NaturalNews) A pile of confidential dental records were found scattered in a random field in Apple Valley, California. The private patient information included names, addresses, phone numbers, social security numbers and birthdates. Found in a vacant lot next to the home of Carolyn Lindblade, the records were collected by the hundreds. A brick wall was keeping them from blowing into a busy street and into a mall parking lot.
"We found the papers up against the block wall in the field over there," Lindblade said, pointing in the direction of the strange find.
Personal information came from accredited dental locator service
Upon further investigation, the records were found to originate from a Better Business Bureau's trusted and respected dental locator service called 1-800-DENTIST. The forms were referrals to Dr. Samuel Kim, who is a local dental laser and implant specialist. His dental office was located a block away, just beyond the brick wall that had captured the wind-strewn dental records.
A spokesman for 1-800-DENTIST stated, "1-800-DENTIST takes the confidentiality of patients we refer to our member dentists seriously. We do not collect or communicate sensitive information such as social security numbers or dates of birth."
That statement proves to be misleading, since some of the clearly marked 1-800-DENTIST forms included patients' social security numbers and dates of birth.
Couple concerned about foul play and stolen identity
One couple, Debra and Robert, were located using the information on the forms. Their cell phone numbers, employer and social security number were found in the dental records. When asked about the misplaced personal information, Debra and Robert were appalled, saying that she provided their personal information to Kim's office when inquiring about insurance.
"See, when you call 1-800-DENTIST, it's supposed to be confidential, and they hook you up so to speak with the proper dentist and come to find out this happens," Robert exclaimed.
When dentist Kim was confronted with the loose files, he responded by saying, "Yeah, I'm going to have to find out what happened."
Meanwhile, Debra and Robert are worried about how this incident may lead to stolen identities. "I'm just praying that nobody has got our information. We've struggled enough through the years and this is just going to hurt if they did get our information again. And we are totally innocent. This isn't fair to us," Debra said. "I'd like to know why. Why this was done."
This incident underscores the importance of protecting your personal privacy in the information age
This is a prime example of how pertinent information can be lumped together, misplaced, mismanaged, improperly discarded or intercepted. If handwritten forms are this susceptible to being lost and intercepted, how much easier can electronic information be pooled into databases, intercepted, analyzed and used against you?
The privacy of personal information should be respected and safeguarded like never before. Loosely giving out personal information could lead to stolen identities, marketing ploys, tracking by authoritarian officials and monitoring by special interest groups.
Sweepstakes, surveys, services that promise to find you insurance, biometric databases used for community events, questionnaires -- all these information portals pose personal security and identity dangers, even when they come from respected sources. In an age of information and databases, your personal information can be intercepted, used for marketing purposes or shared with government officials. It can also be lost in the wind where anyone could pick it up and use it for their own gain.
Personal privacy should be more respected in today's information, communication age.