San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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June 25th, 2008
Local loan company’s owner settles attorney general action over identify theft safeguards

STAFF REPORT

In 2007, investigators working for the state attorney general found customers’ bank statements, loan records and social security numbers in a Dumpster behind a San Antonio “pay day” loan storefront. This week, Austin-based EZ Money L.P. and EZ Pawn L.P. agreed to pay the state $600,000 and take future precautions to keep sensitive information away from people who could use it to steal identities.

Also as part of the settlement, the companies, whose holdings include EZ Money Loan Services at 1404 Clarewood Drive in San Marcos, must post signs explaining records storage and disposal requirements. The companies must conduct unannounced compliance checks at all of its stores every six months and provide annual training to its employees on data protection practices. Both limited partnerships are subsidaries of EZCORP Inc., which operates 462 EZ Money and 73 EZ Pawn stores nationally.

“Recognizing that identity theft is one of the state’s fastest growing crimes, the Texas Legislature enacted legislation to ensure that customers’ sensitive information is protected from identity thieves. The office of the Attorney General will continue cracking down on identity theft,” Texas attorney general Greg Abbott said in a written statement.

Joe Rotunda, EZ CORP’s president and chief executive officer, said, “Despite the Attorney General’s allegations, we are pleased that no customer was harmed. EZCORP had strong identity protection policies in place, including a state-of-the-art ‘paperless’ document system, written document retention policies, and regular audits prior to the Attorney General’s lawsuit. We invested additional resources in technology and information security and continue to do so in an ongoing manner to enhance identity protection and security for our customers. We regularly evaluate our operations and look for new ways to protect our customers against identity theft.”

But, he said, the company decided to settle before trial because, “After an extended period of factual and legal debate and negotiations, it became clear that it is in the best interests of both parties to settle this matter rather than pursue costly litigation.”

In all, 483 individual customers’ records were improperly discarded in easily assessable garbage bins behind stores in Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Lubbock and the Rio Grande Valley, the attorney general’s enforcement action alleged. 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.

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.

— BRAD ROLLINS

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