Tax returns found in Houston dumpster

The Federal Trade Commission says “identity theft” costs consumers millions, billions of dollars each year. While protecting your personal information is a vital step, a number of local taxpayers may have been dangerously exposed after discovering their personal information in the trash.

Michael McCollum says he found more than a dozen 2021 tax returns, complete with names and Social Security numbers, in a shared dumpster behind a bar where he worked on Bissonnet.

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He says he was surprised when he approached the tax authorities listed: “The owner offered me $2,000 to shut up or walk away.”

Albert Okokie is the owner of Quantum Financial Solutions and remembers discussing money with McCollum very differently.

“This guy is trying to blackmail me into giving him money, and I’m not going to do that!” says Okokie.

Beyond the two men arguing over each other’s allegations, there’s the matter of those tax returns found in the trash. Mike McCollum says he caught them and wants someone to take responsibility.

“With potential identity theft, it opens up a whole bunch of doors for the criminal element,” he says.

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Albert Okokie says he has no idea how the forms ended up in the trash, insisting copies are only printed when customers come to collect them. What happens after that, he says, is beyond his control and rules out the possibility that someone in his office made a mistake and placed unshredded documents in the dumpster.

“It’s absolutely a possibility of that happening, but the question is: Do we keep printed copies of tax returns? No,” he argues.

FOX 26 attempted to contact the individuals listed on the tax return provided to us and received no response. The documents will be destroyed, but they offer a cautionary tale, so ask questions and feel comfortable with the security of any personal information you may have to leave behind.