Texas AG Alleges Potential ID Theft Situation

Claims Sunmart improperly discarded sensitive information

Greg Lindenberg, Editor, CSP

HOUSTON -- Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott last week charged Houston-based Petroleum Wholesale LP, which operates Sunmart Travel Centers & Convenience Stores in 10 states, for exposing its customers to identity theft. According to the state's enforcement action, Petroleum Wholesale improperly discarded customer records.

"This defendant is charged with failing to protect its customers' sensitive information," Abbott said. "With more than 20,000 Texas victims each year, identity theft remains one of the nation's fastest-growing crimes. The Office of the Attorney General [OAG] will [image-nocss] continue working to protect Texans from identity theft."

Investigators with the OAG discovered that the company improperly discarded hundreds of customer records in a publicly accessible trash container outside its former headquarters. According to investigators, the records included sales receipts with customers' names and full credit or debit card numbers with expiration dates. The records also included returned checks, along with forms listing customers' names, banking routing numbers, driver's license and Social Security numbers.

The defendant is charged with violating the 2005 Identity Theft Enforcement & Protection Act, which requires the safeguarding and proper destruction of clients' sensitive personal information. State law establishes penalties of up to $50,000 per violation of that act.

The OAG also charged the company with violating Chapter 35 of the Business & Commerce Code, which requires businesses to develop retention and disposal procedures for their clients' personal information. The law provides for civil penalties of up to $500 for each abandoned record.In a prepared response provided to CSP Daily News, Petroleum Wholesale's general counsel, Stuart Lapp, said, "We have been in direct communication with the [OAG] since day one of their investigation. We have provided documents to the [OAG], have responded to every request for information and have been involved in the investigation process. At this point, it is premature to comment on the specifics of the investigation or of the events that led to the filing of the lawsuit. We remain in direct communication with the [OAG] and will continue our cooperation throughout this process. We fully support the efforts of the attorney general to protect Texans against identity theft and are committed to doing whatever it takes to continue our support of that effort."