Rick Starnes normally has to dig for information as part of his job. But a bank in the northeast is giving him dirt he doesn't want to put his shovel in.
"I started getting faxes in off my toll free fax number for my private investigation company, started getting tax returns and financial information from various individuals that apparently were attempting to send them to a bank in Rhode Island," he said.
Citizens Bank has branches in nine northeastern states. Starnes has received upwards of two dozen faxes since February from branches in Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, faxes containing personal information like social security numbers, bank account numbers, and tax information. Starnes contacted the bank when they started piling up.
"Their response was, basically, it was just a handful of faxes and that they had resolved the issue," he said. "Well, the issue had not been resolved. I continue to get more faxes in."
In fact, Starnes has received two faxes from Citizens in the last two days. The number for Starnes's PI firm is just one digit off from the number these faxes are supposed to go to. The bank claims their employees were simply misdialing the number, but mostly, it doesn't seem to be a case of a mis-punched button. The phone number written on the faxes is Starnes's.
In a statement, Citizens Bank said, "We have communicated with our employees and asked them to be sure the correct fax number is pre-programmed in their fax machine to avoid a possible inadvertent misdial. We thank Mr. Starnes for bringing this matter to our attention, and continue to remind our employees of key entering issues with this specific fax number."
Starnes believes the case is much more serious. "Just think of the damage that would be done if I were a bad guy or if I were a crook," he said. "This would just be giving free candy to a child."
In this case, millions of dollars are safe. A similar breach might not pay off.