A council has been accused of negligence after people's private documents were found dumped in Dorset.
The papers from about 70 people were found in rubbish at the back of a disused register office in Bournemouth.
The documents included personal details which experts claim could be used to steal someone's identity to open bank accounts and get credit cards.
"We're extremely concerned to learn that documents of this nature have been found," said a council spokesman.
The documents included the names, addresses, telephone numbers, jobs, ethnic origin, photographed pages of passports with photographs, and, in some cases, divorce papers relating to couples who married in the town in 2002 and 2003.
Jonathan Bamford, assistant commissioner for the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), said: "It would appear that Bournemouth Borough Council has been negligent in safely disposing of documents which contain important personal information about individuals.
"Clearly, where personal information is not disposed of securely, there is a risk that it can fall into the hands of criminals.
"The Information Commissioner's Office takes breaches of people's privacy very seriously and we will be contacting the council about this."
'Matter of urgency'
The ICO has said if information on the documents was also held electronically, the council was likely to have breached the Data Protection Act 1998.
Mike Edwards, head of public protection at Bournemouth Borough Council, said: "This building was closed in April 2004 and it is no longer used or owned by the council.
"We are investigating this situation as a matter of urgency to establish how these documents came to be there.
"Officers have been sent to recover any of the remaining documents."
It is claimed that identity theft affects 120,000 people each year in the UK.
The IOC is an independent agency created to oversee the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.