NEW PORT RICHEY — Linda Paradiso was a victim of identify theft once, so she was alarmed to hear her driver's license number, address and birth date had been mailed to a stranger because of a clerical mixup.
Turns out the Pasco retiree wasn't alone. The mistake affected hundreds of other county residents as well.
Pasco Tax Collector Mike Fasano said a vendor working for the office included wrong information on hundreds of vehicle registration renewal notices sent out two weeks ago.
Along with the correct information, the renewals also contained data belonging to total strangers — driver's license numbers, tag numbers, birth dates and addresses.
Paradiso's own notice, which she received April 9, showed information about her car, a Honda, plus that of a vehicle belonging to a Trinity man she never met.
That got her wondering who received information about her and her second vehicle.
"I was a victim of identity theft once. They never got anything, but I had to change everything. All my credit cards. It was horrible," Paradiso said.
Fasano said the vendor, CASS Data and Mailing Services of Fort Walton Beach, attached the wrong information on notices for residents born in May who have at least two vehicles registered.
About 12,000 Pasco residents fit into that category; of those the error affected 1,921, he said.
The mistake has since been corrected and early last week Fasano fired the company, which earned about $2,000 a month, and is moving to bring the renewal operations in-house to safeguard personal information.
"We pay them to be accurate and this was just unacceptable, totally unacceptable," he said.
Both his office and CASS Data sent letters to the residents, apologizing and asking them to discard the notices.
Additionally, Fasano contacted attorney Clyde Hobby about requesting CASS Data offer the residents a year of identity-theft protection for free.
Calls to the company were not returned, and it's still unclear how the mistake occurred. Paradiso said the only similarity between her and the Trinity man is that they both own Hondas.
Fasano said it's unlikely someone's identity will be stolen. The data did not include Social Security or credit card numbers. Also, Fasano's office has records of who received the data, so law enforcement could easily track the perpetrators.
"If those drivers' license numbers are used in a fraudulent way, we will know who that is," he said.
No other mistakes were reported, and Fasano said he received only a handful of complaints.
Apparently, many people paid the renewal fees without checking the registration information. Those who paid who received wrong information will still receive their license plate decals, he said.
Rich Shopes can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6236.