Fort Bend Sheriff's Office Decides to Help Out Identity Thieves With Worst Press Release Ever

The Fort Bend Sheriff's Office just sent a press release to news outlets all over Texas that revealed the credit card, checking account, Social Security and driver's license numbers of hundreds of people. You see, the email contained a photo of these items that were kept in a lost-and-found room at the Santikos Palladium theaters in Richmond.

A few seconds later, the Sheriff's Office sent another email saying that, on second thought, maybe that wasn't such a great idea.

Pay close attention while we walk you through this: According to the original email, an off-duty Sheriff's detective was working security at the Palladium when he "discovered several boxes and bags containing numerous wallets, 171 driver's licenses, more than a dozen Social Security cards, several hundred credit and debit cards, and more than a dozen checkbooks."

Fortunately, "the detective, who has experience in financial crimes, instantly realized this was an unsafe measure with regard to the potential of identity theft and credit card fraud."

So the detective brought the items to the Fort Bend Sheriff's Office and his colleagues "are still in the process of cataloging the items and researching them to determine ownership."

First question: How much research does it take to "determine ownership" of a driver's license, checkbook, credit card or Social Security card?

Second question: Why would a law enforcement agency think the mass distribution of high-res photos showing people's private credit card and driver's license numbers -- everything an identity thief needs to bean identity thief -- could possibly be a good idea?

Third question: Did anyone ask this detective with "experience in financial crimes" if posting such pics was a wise choice? Or was it this detective's idea in the first place, in which case the Fort Bend Sheriff's Office might have a different definition of "experience," or "financial crimes," or even just "crime."

For the record, the second email requested media to "please discard the photos attached to the earlier release. It has been determined that some of the numbers could be compromised when magnified. If you can blur the cards, that would be fine. Otherwise, please discard the photos. Thanks."

This is a problem. Seriously. There is something very, very wrong here.

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Contributor Craig Malisow covers crooks, quacks, animal abusers, elected officials, and other assorted people for the Houston Press.
Contact: Craig Malisow