Joe Reisman, real life superhero.

Local Sanitation workers, the head of Community Board 15 and Sheepshead Bites’ own tax columnist, Joseph Reisman, all went above and beyond the call of duty on Friday, mobilizing to secure hundreds of documents containing names, addresses, Social Security numbers, bank account information and other information coveted by identity thieves that were accidentally strewn across a busy Sheepshead Bay intersection.

The incident was sparked by a tip sent to us by Sheepshead Bites reader Penny, who informed us at approximatly 6:00 p.m. on Friday that hundreds of papers were blowing in the wind on Avenue Z, between East 16th Street and East 17th Street. Upon closer inspection, Penny wrote, the papers were tax records from a local accountant, and contained some of the most sensitive private information about clients – the kind of info that makes ID thieves drool.

We checked it out, and, indeed, it appeared hundreds, if not thousands, of individual’s identities were at risk.

First, we called the accountant listed on the papers, and even knocked on his office door. But no one was in.

Then we called our own tax guru, Reisman, to see if there was a city or state agency able to respond and quickly clean up the mess and possibly notify the accountant and his clients. Reisman wasn’t aware of any, and advised us to call the city.

We then called 311, but the uniqueness of the complaint baffled operators. After being transferred around a couple of times, an operator said all they could do was file a complaint, and, in time, the Sanitation Department would dispatch someone to check out the location and issue the accountant a fine for littering. However, it wasn’t clear if they could get someone to the location within 24 hours.

That wasn’t good enough. With so much personal information so easily accessible to passers-by, we knew every second it remained on the street, people’s credit and identities remained at risk.

So we called Community Board 15 Chairperson Theresa Scavo. Like other city offices, the Community Board was closed on Friday by the time we called (around 7:00 p.m.), but Scavo answered her cell phone. Recognizing the risk to residents, Scavo immediately reached out to our local Sanitation garage superintendent, Anthony Cardieri. Cardieri made emergency calls to the shift supervisor.

At the same time, our columnist Reisman took matters into his own hand. Reisman’s clients may already know he’s a superhero. Or, at least, they know he dresses up as one during tax season to lighten the mood in the office. And while he didn’t quite don the costume on Friday, he did act the part.

He left a family event, got in his car, and went over to the scene with garbage bags in hand. He and the Sanitation crew – a team that included a car and two trucks – arrived at approximately the same time, and they worked together to collect the documents and haul them off for proper disposal. The papers, we’re told, were properly shredded.

Once they got everything along Avenue Z and East 16th Street, Sanitation packed up and headed back to the garage. But, while walking back to his car, Reisman discovered more documents blowing in the wind on East 17th Street. Luckily, he still had bags left, and he began cleaning it up himself to guard the individuals’ identities.

This morning, Sheepshead Bites called the accountant whose name was on all the documents to ask how his papers could have ended up in the streets. He said such papers are normally shredded, but that a cleaning lady accidentally took them as garbage and put them on the curb. He was made aware of the situation when someone came by this morning to return some of the documents he or she collected (heroes abound in Sheepshead Bay!), and said his office is currently contacting clients and informing them of the error, and the steps they can take to safeguard themselves from identity theft related to the compromised information.

We also reached out to the Sanitation Department to find out the names of the local workers who helped get the job done, and this post will be updated when we receive a response.

A huge thanks to these local heroes, who moved quickly to protect residents’ identities, especially Anthony Cardieri and our local Sanitation workers, Community Board 15 Chairperson Theresa Scavo, Sheepshead Bites columnist Joe Reisman, our tipster Penny, and the unnamed individual who picked papers up and returned them to the accountant this morning.

Related posts

  • Arthur Borko

    YAY! These guys deserve some kind of civilian medal from the city!

  • frankiev

    I found aabout 1/2 dozen in my driveway.
    Names, SS numbers, bank routing numbers, etc.
    I brought them in and shredded them.

  • nolastname

    Well done people. A good responsible response.
    I found a large bag containing a few hundred peoples address DOB and medical insurance info. It was from one of the private transportation vans. I called 311, they said sanitation would be there within 3 days. I could not get the operator to understand the importance of getting these papers off the street. After going back and forth I volunteered to keep them at my house until sanitation came for them. The operator said if I take them they are mine to dispose of.  Not gonna’ happen.

    I called 61Pct. and after the desk person relayed the dilemma I was told to bring them in and they would shred them. So I did and they did.

    Then I get a call from sanitation and I explained the deal. It was an Anthony I believe the Anthony in the article. He was sorry 311 did not understand.  When he saw the complaint he contacted me and would have been there fast to pick it up. He left me with a phone # if I ever needed something like this taken care of pronto. Nice guty.

  • sal

    whos the accountant?

    • PayPaul

      The answer, my friend, is blowin in the wind….

      I do have to wonder why, instead of all that time spent calling to City agencies, you didn’t go out there on the street and pick them up yourselves? Shred em too. A lot of these uncivil servants couldn’t buy a clue.

      • http://www.sheepsheadbites.com/ Ned Berke

        Ah, Paul, you’ve got me. You’re absolutely correct, and the one thing I left out of this article is how incredibly humbled – and stupid – I felt when Joe Reisman called me and said he was going over there to clean it up. My jaw actually dropped, and I felt a bit ashamed that it hadn’t occurred to me to actually DO anything, but rather to call other people and find someone else to do it. I guess it’s a bit revealing of our different natures, and Joe’s is far better.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

    See, another example of why Sheepshead Bites matters.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=750663363 Penny Kushnir

    YEa! Glad I was able to make a contribution to the community.

  • Allenspopper

    good job by all …

  • Tc

    good work everyone!

  • Pingback: Is Your Identity Going To Be Stolen? | Sheepshead Bay News Blog