guy outside of payday loans storeSensitive and personal information of Payday Loan Store's customers ended up in the trash despite a company policy that promises to protect such data, according to a lawsuit filed by Illinois' attorney general.

The company, which sells high-interest, short-term loans, allegedly dumped the documents containing the information into trash bins outside four of its locations in the Chicago area, where Payday Loan Store is based.

"Data security is absolutely critical to protecting consumers from identity theft," Attorney General Lisa Madigan said in a statement. "Businesses that collect, use and ultimately dispose of sensitive personal information must live up to their promises to protect that information from unauthorized access in order to protect the financial privacy of consumers."

The lawsuit came about after someone told police in April that he had found some documents in a trash container outside one of Payday Loan Store's locations. Police dug up two to three boxes containing customer files.

In some cases, the files contained a customer's name, address, Social Security number, wage information, bank account information including canceled checks, loan application, loan agreement and receipts for loan payments made. A signed copy of the company's privacy policy also was included in some of the files.

Two days later, state investigators searched other Payday Loan Store locations and found similar problems. In all, investigators found about 370 customer files containing personal information, including one that contained a report from a consumer reporting agency.

The lawsuit also alleges the company routinely told customers it would protect their personal information and that it did not comply with federal requirements to do so.

Barb Wolf, vice president of marketing and communications for Payday Loan Store, said in a statement to Consumer Ally that the incident was set up by a disgruntled employee and discovered within hours.

"None of our potentially impacted customers reported reported any adverse impact," Wolf said. "We enhanced our procedures months ago as a result of this incident."

Consumers who believe they may have been victims of identity theft can contact the Identity Theft Hotline at 866-999-5630.

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