NILES - A woman and her mother walking along abandoned railroad tracks Monday came across a slew of old medical paperwork full of patients' personal information. Information included names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers.
On Tuesday, a pair of state representatives said they are taking steps to clean up the mess and protect people's identities.
State Rep. Bob Hagan, D-Youngstown, said he was getting his teeth cleaned when his dental hygienist tipped him off to the mess of old papers dumped along the railroad tracks off Deforest Road in Niles.
"They, of course, had opened a couple of them and found that the Social Security numbers, addresses, and in fact, in some cases, medical history of some of these individuals were exposed," Hagan said.
A closer look at the papers shows they are old medical records from different area doctors' offices, along with bookkeeping records from Howland Community Church. The dates on the documents range from the 1950s to the mid-1990s.
"But still, those numbers go on forever, and if an information thief is out there, this is one of those things that they would use to go ahead and get a phony credit card," said state Rep. Tom Letson, D-Warren, whose district includes the area where the papers were found.
Not only is there an increased chance for identity theft, but Hagan and Letson agree that any kind of illegal dumping can pose a serious hazard to the environment.
"Not only the medical records, but we don't even know if there's medical byproduct that's in here, that could be leaching into the water system," Hagan said.
Hagan and Letson couldn't speculate on how or why the records were dumped there, but they said they'll notify police and township trustees about the mess.
They said this incident should serve as a reminder to the public of just how easily someone can get their hands on other people's personal information.
"Rep. Hagan and I will probably contact the Ohio State Medical Association, and the church that has documents here," Letson said.