For most people, trash appears to be a black hole where items that have been discarded do not return. However, identity thieves can target dumpsters and recycling bins for invaluable information. Credit card and bank statements, utility bills, pre-approval offers, letters from the IRS, and many other items that arrive in the mail daily can end up in the trash. Yet, these documents might have sensitive information such as credit card, bank account, and social security numbers. If the information gets into the wrong hands, you could lose money, assets, or other valuables.
Dumpster divers can search through your garbage to get all kinds of sensitive information. This method appears to be low-tech, but it has gained popularity in many states. Who can target your waste?
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Based on the kind of business or job you do, many thieves and criminals can target you. If you dispose of documents containing employee or customer information, you risk it becoming available to the outside world.
Apart from documents that contain personal information, vagrants, also known as freegans, seek to get valuable items and details. Some people seek electronics to sell, while others seek food waste. Laws and ordinances vary based on how well dumpsters are protected from theft. It is not likely that you can claim possession of waste materials. It is therefore essential to secure your documents from the start. To keep your identity safe from dumpster divers, you need a safe way to dispose of personal information. Here are the things you can do:
1. Collect mail every day
It is essential to bring in the mail to your home every day to avoid cases of identity fraud. Avoid leaving ATM or gas station receipts in trash receptacles. Identity thieves can change the information into money and steal your identity. Therefore, make sure you take your mail and discard it responsibly.
2. Place a hold on mail when you’re away
When you need to leave for a lengthy period, you can place a hold on the mail to avoid losses. Like a personal loan or new credit card offer, common mail items can carry a cost with them. They have a higher risk of identity theft. The US Department of Justice claims that criminals can retrieve the details from your mail and attempt to activate the cards for their own use.
3. Pay attention to billing cycles and contact companies if bills don’t arrive on time
Call companies, people, and businesses who have your personal information if bills fail to arrive on time. Identity thieves can target such people and enterprises to get your information and use it for their personal gain. Inform them that you need their assistance in securing your protection against identity theft.
4. Shred anything with important information
This includes receipts, credit offers, account statements, and expired credit cards. Shredding is an excellent way to make your personal information illegible to would-be thieves and prevent identity theft. The Houston Police Department recommends tearing up or shredding solicitations and other documents that contain financial information.
5. Delete personal information from old electronics
If you decide to donate or discard electronics with personal information such as laptops, make sure they do not contain any personal information that could end up in the wrong hands. This means deleting all of your files. According to the Federal Trade Commission, upon deleting a file, the link to reconstructing it disappears. However, the pieces and bits of the deleted file remain on the computer until they are overwritten, and a data recovery program can retrieve them.
This information can include website passwords for your credit cards or bank accounts. You might also have prescriptions and other medical information or old tax returns stored in forgotten folders. Identity thieves can exploit this information easily. To keep your hardware completely wiped, you can install a program from the computer manufacturer that will transfer all data from the old computer to the new one.
6. Stay informed about your personal details
Discover Identity Theft Protection monitors many risky sites for your social security number and other details you offer if you have a Discover card. It is vital to get information from the three credit card bureaus for necessary changes.
7. Lockdown dumpsters
Although locking down a dumpster is not the most convenient solution, business owners can decide to do so. They can use a combination lock, padlock, special cabling, or various other locking solutions. Locking your dumpster can be an easy, fast, and effective step to securing your business waste from potential identity thieves.
8. Install motion-sensitive cameras
To increase security around your dumpsters, you can consider placing electronic detection devices such as motion-detecting cameras. Motion detection cameras offer the benefit of recording the action at the site of your dumpster. Therefore, you can catch crucial moments on digital recording. The presence of motion-sensitive cameras can be adequate to deter most thieves.
9. Appropriate lighting
You might not be able to control where your waste collection areas or dumpsters are. They are usually built into a facility that cannot be relocated easily. However, you can control the lighting in the area. Make sure that the areas where the dumpsters are situated are well-lit, with both spotlighting and ambient lighting. Ensure that the areas where the dumpsters are located do not contain clutter so that they are easy to observe and don’t offer any easy hiding places. Waste and information thieves usually seek out dumpsters that are visually blocked. They are also enticed by open or messy dumpsters that offer a sneak peek of what is inside.
10. Recycle responsibly
If you usually recycle products, make sure you destroy all traces of your personal information so that you do not get into trouble. Also, eliminate electronic junk.
By following the tips we have listed above, you can keep your identity from getting stolen through your waste. You will keep yourself safe from motivated individuals who will do anything to steal. Remember that dumpster thieves can search for documents that you might think are no longer useful just to get your identity. Take the steps listed above to do everything you can to keep identity thieves from ruining your life.