I-Team: Laws govern destruction of personal information

It's the kind of information you want shredded: your name, address and Social Security number.

But the I-Team found those sensitive details out in the open at the old Enchanted Forest amusement park site in Hopkinton.

Following our investigation, a clean-up crew arrived Tuesday to secure the site.

"Employers have that obligation to take steps to make sure their employees' personal information is in fact protected," said Tammy Miller, head of the Rhode Island attorney general's Consumer Protection Unit.

Miller said state law requires employee information to be securely destroyed. But what does it mean to say "securely destroying" documents?

"Perhaps there's someone's Social Security number or other information in there. Do not throw them in the Dumpster. That is not securely destroying the documents. Have the documents shredded," Miller said.

But it doesn't always happen that way.

NBC 10 found several examples of records that should have stayed private but were exposed.

A Dumpster at the University of Rhode Island was found full of sensitive student information in 2003, violating state and federal laws that require shredding. The university promised to review what went wrong.

The same year, confidential medical records were found at the Ladd Center. The buildings closed in the early 1990s.

NBC 10 found hundreds of medical records marked "CONFIDENTIAL" scattered on the floor. The files were later moved by state workers.

In 2005, Woonsocket-based CVS apologized to customers after a truck spilled personal documents on an Alabama highway. The road was littered with medical documents until crews secured the information.

At the Enchanted Forest site Tuesday, the crew came armed with trash bags and lumber, ready to clean up.

Some relief for former employee Hannah Benoit, whose Social Security number NBC 10 spotted on the site.

"I never expected employee records from several decades ago to still even be in existence, let alone lying around in the woods in Rhode Island," Benoit said.

So what can you do if you're worried your identity might be at risk? You can file a complaint with the attorney general's office.