KCBD Investigates: Salvage yards serving as treasure mines for i - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

KCBD Investigates: Salvage yards serving as treasure mines for identity thieves

Hundreds of personal items left behind in vehicles (Source: KCBD) Hundreds of personal items left behind in vehicles (Source: KCBD)
Hundreds of personal items left behind in vehicles (Source: KCBD) Hundreds of personal items left behind in vehicles (Source: KCBD)

What you view as trash, could be exactly what a thief needs to steal your identity. Thieves do not have to come anywhere near you to get it. 

Thousands of vehicles end up in Lubbock salvage yards every year. Some are taken there after a bad accident, others are purchased at an auction and some are sold by the owners themselves.

"There is just no telling, I mean, this is what we deal with," said Brian Burgess as he dug through one of the vehicles on his lot.

Burgess owns Burgess Auto Salvage where he said they crush about a thousand vehicles a year. 

"We go through them real fast. We buy them, take out whatever we need and we scrap them," Burgess said.

Burgess said some people never even bother to clean out their vehicles before he buys them.

"There is always all kinds of receipts and things that might have some information on there where they might have written down a credit card number or something," Burgess said. 

It did not take us long to find personal information in multiple vehicles on the lot.

In one vehicle, we found a statement of wages and a W-2 form. Within minutes, we knew how much money that person made and exactly where we could find them.

After speaking with different companies, we learned this is pretty common.

"There's 125 cars a month from everyone here in town that sells their cars, and I would guess half of them are plum full of stuff," said Scott Bickel, the C.E.O. of Red Raider Wrecker. 

"Whenever a car is in a wreck, people leave everything that was in the car," Bickel said.

Like Burgess, Bickel said few people come back to clean out their car if it is totaled. 

"We've seen guns and credit cards, cell phones and bills, bank statements, just anything you can even think of, people leave in their car," Bickel said.

After a certain amount of time, the vehicle goes to auction as is. 

Bickel showed us a vehicle he took to auction, but ended up taking back to his yard.

Inside we found bank statements and personal letters, all items that would be in someone else's hands if the vehicle had sold.

Now, like a lot of valuable information, it is sitting in a yard.

We also looked at a van Bickel purchased.

We found the van's title and registration, which was not surprising, but we also found a handful of house and vehicle keys. 

Since the documents offered names and addresses, it would not have been difficult to try out those keys at the person's home. 

We asked Bickel how easy it would be for someone to steal this personal information from a junkyard.

"Anybody that could jump a fence; crooks will be crooks," Bickel said.

A lot of these yards are outfitted with security cameras.

Both of these business owners want people to know they can come by the yard and go through their personal belongings for free.

Bickel said a lot of people think they have to pay their towing bill to grab something valuable from the vehicle, which is not the case. 

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