The occasional customer, Mike Seay of Lindenhurst, Ill., said the mailer he got last week was addressed "Mike Seay, Daughter Killed in Car Crash," and that his 17-year-old daughter was killed in a car crash last year, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.
"I'm not a big OfficeMax customer. And I wouldn't have gone there and said anything to anybody there about it," Seay said of the crash. "That's not their business."
In a statement, OfficeMax, based in Naperville, said the junk mail resulted from a mailing list "rented through a third-party provider" but neither named the provider nor said whether the company had similar data on other prospective customers.
"We continue to investigate how this information could have been included on a mailing list and will take the necessary action to prevent situations such as this from occurring," spokeswoman Karen Denning said in a statement.
"This is the tip of the iceberg," Pam Dixon, executive director of World Privacy Forum, a non-profit public interest research group, told the Times.
"There were probably other people on that list that lost their children in car accidents, and we probably haven't heard about them, and he just had the gumption to take it public," Dixon said.
Dixon's group, based in San Diego, discovered companies selling data on rape victims, seniors suffering from dementia and people diagnosed with HIV and AIDS.
"All of us are on these lists, and right now we don't even have the right to find out what list we're on or what they say about us," Dixon said. "And I think it's becoming increasingly important for us to see this information and have some rights so we can get off these lists. For this father and mother, I can't think of a worse thing."