Hundreds of old tax returns, complete with personal information, including Social Security numbers, were found inside a Fremont dumpster over the weekend.
The paper tax returns were intact inside the open dumpster for several days, according to witnesses, and they all contained personal data for anyone to easily steal.
The dumpster is located in a parking lot off Grimmer Boulevard in Fremont, where a nearby certified public accountant practices.
"It's disturbing," said Robert Petesch, a Newark resident whose forms were inside the bin. "I assumed it would have been shredded. Our names, our Social Security number, my employer, financial information. This is a big breach of privacy."
The tax returns were prepared by Ed Robinson, a local CPA. When he was informed of the discovery, Robinson said he wasn't aware they needed to be shredded.
"I thought they were going to take it and burn it," he said. "I shouldn't have done it. I'm sorry."
A few hours later, Robinson, who is retiring, placed a lock on the recycling dumpster. At the same time, one of his clients was so concerned about the documents that he took matters into his own hands, calling out a company to pick up the documents and shred them.
Petesch was relieved to have his old documents in his hands. "I'm going to shred this," he said.
Robinson told his client he will pay for the shredding.
The California Society of CPAs urges all tax preparers to shred any returns they are not keeping.