Photo: Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has charged an Edinburg fitness center with failing to adequately store and safeguard documents that contained customers' sensitive personal information. Under the Identity Theft Enforcement and Protection Act, businesses are legally required to implement procedures that ensure customers' sensitive personal information -- including Social Security, Driver's License, and financial account numbers -- is protected from unlawful use or disclosure.

The defendant, Edinburg-based Cornerstone Fitness, closed its McColl Road facility in October 2007. According to the state's investigation, the defendant hired a moving company to transport equipment, furniture, and business records to its flagship facility on Cornerstone Boulevard.

Some time during the next few months, a filing cabinet was discovered in the dumpster behind the defendant's old McColl Road location. Court documents indicate that customers' completed personal training service contracts, which include sensitive personal information, were found inside the discarded filing cabinet. The state's investigation subsequently showed that the defendants lacked records' retention, management, and disposal policies.

Under the Identity Theft Enforcement and Protection Act, which was authored by Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, the defendant faces civil penalties that range from $2,000 and $50,000 per violation. In addition to statutory penalties, the state's enforcement action seeks an injunction requiring the defendant to implement a comprehensive records management policy.

Although investigators could not confirm whether any personal information was obtained or misused by identity thieves, Cornerstone Fitness customers should carefully monitor bank, credit card and similar financial statements for evidence of suspicious activity. To prevent identity theft, all Texans should obtain annual, cost-free copies of their credit reports.

Texans who wish to file a complaint may contact the Office of the Attorney General online, where they can also obtain information on identity theft detection and prevention.