They say that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” This is exactly true in the case of identity thieves. There is that time each month when we all have to pay our bills. We check our bank accounts and make sure that we have enough money in them so that we can pay off our various utility and credit card bills. After paying them we irresponsibly throw out the bill receipts as we think that the amount has been settled.
This common practice of many Americans is how most identity thieves thrive.
Many identity thieves collect the personal information of their victims through the process of dumpster diving. They rummage through trash to find the remains of old credit card bills, bank statements, and other financial documents. By collecting such personal information, it becomes easy for them to take control of your financial assets. Postal mail plays a major part in Dumpster Diving. Normally credit card companies over-burden customers to offer pre-approved credit cards and Loan offers. If this mail is not used by the addressee and it is not properly disposed of, it could fall into the hands of a “dumpster diver.”
Based on the reports of identity theft victims, 88% of the information was collected through the means of “dumpster diving.” Only about 12% of victims believed that their identities had been stolen over the internet. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that over 9 million Americans fall prey to identity theft each year and that 3.7% of purchases made by Americans are fraudulent; made with money that is not theirs. About 48% of victims find out that their identity has been stolen within 3 months. Another 9-18% find out only after a period of four years or more.
On average 66% of victims’ personal information is used to create new credit card accounts. Another 28% of victims personal information is used to purchase cell phones and service plans to accompany them. For an unfortunate 12% of victims, warrants are issued for their arrest under financial cases and suits. Victims spend an average of 330 hours trying to repair damage that is caused by identity theft.
These facts and figures on “dumpster diving” and identity theft in general are alarming. It raises awareness that we must all be very careful with the personal information that we throw out. There are people out there who are willing to go through your trash, collect the information, and cause financial harm to you. So it is imperative that we must take good care of all of our financial documents and make sure that we properly dispose of them. For example, be sure not to throw out documents that have information concerning your Social Security Number, Driver License number or bank account numbers. Be sure to shred important documents that you wish to throw out. Also, never throw out credit and debit cards as it; make sure to cut them into several pieces first. Identity theft through dumpster diving is very easy to prevent as long as you are aware of it. Just take the extra steps to be sure that important personal information is not thrown out and is disposed of in the correct manner. This way, we can all prevent financial harm.
Especially if you are a business or a company, your information is critical since you could be compromising not just yours but your customers’ and vendors’ private information as well. Say No to identity theft and yes to Shredding. That’s the only way to reduce dumpster diving mishaps.
If it explains the what, why, when and how of your destruction practices, a stated policy will minimize any hint of impropriety.