How Your Trash is Valuable to Criminals
A group of criminals in St. Tammany Parish, LA were arrested after they went dumpster diving.
This criminal ring was targeting trash from a local loan business – one of those “cash now” places.
The group rummaged through the trash to gather personal information about customers.
They used this information to either steal existing credit cards or open new ones.
Then they went on spending sprees.
At some retailers, they convinced the cashiers to type in the credit card number so they didn’t need to swipe the card.
This way they could use stolen card numbers even if they didn’t have a physical card.
According to local police, the crime wave went on for about a year, affecting at least 45 victims.
When police served a search warrant at one suspect’s home, they found a briefcase full of documents from the loan business.
In all, six individuals were arrested.
They all admitted to identity theft and access device fraud.
The state Attorney General contacted the loan business to ensure that all confidential documents are properly disposed of in the future.
The truth is, people have been going through each other’s trash forever.
But over the years, criminals have started to focus on trash for identity theft.
Making Sense of Security is here to make sure you know how to protect your private data directly.
Thieves count on you being careless and not thinking twice about what you throw out in your trash.
People tend to throw out receipts which has valuable information.
Thieves can use your credit card receipts to their advantage.
The receipts in your trash are more valuable than you think.
Considering this, here are a few tips to help prevent your trash from turning into an identity theft headache for you.
Take Trash with You:
When you go to the grocery store or gas station you may throw the receipt in the trash on your way out the door.
This is a common and convenient thing to do.
So, criminals target the dumpsters at retailers, because they know they will find receipts.
And thought the receipt doesn’t show all your information, it can reveal crucial details.
For example, criminals take the last 4-digits of a credit card and try to figure out the rest of the numbers.
They even use computer programs to help them try different numbers until they get a match.
The most secure thing to do is to always take receipts home with you and shred them completely before disposal.
You’ve Been Pre-Approved:
According to the Department of Justice, “Criminals may retrieve credit card pre-approvals and try to activate the cards for their use without your knowledge.”
The problem is, most people rip these offers up and throw them in the trash.
But criminals can put these offers back together and open up a new credit card.
Once they send the paperwork back, they call the credit card company and tell them the address has changed.
And all future correspondence goes to the new address.
The victim has no idea the card has even been opened in their name.
Avoid the risk and just shred those credit card offers.
Don’t Put Trash Out Early:
It’s common to put your trash can out on the curb the night before trash day.
Usually trash pick-up is early in the morning, and most people don’t want to deal with it when they’re running out the door.
But this gives criminals the entire night to go through your trash.
And they are less likely to be seen in the middle of the night.
So, while it may be inconvenient, the best thing to do is to put your trash can out early in the morning the day it gets picked up.
Cut It Up:
When you make a big purchase – say a new TV – you don’t need the whole world to know.
But if you put a huge box out for trash or recycling, you’re announcing your purchase to any criminal paying attention.
The best thing to do is to cut everything up.
Whether it’s a TV, or even a small electronic item, you should cut the cardboard box up into flat pieces.
You can disguise what you bought by putting it in a pile with other boxes such as things from the grocery store.
Make it a habit to always shred important documents before putting them in the trash.
If you are throwing away something such as a credit card, cut it into multiple pieces.
Then, you can throw away a few pieces in your trash and trash cans at other locations – like gas stations, etc.
That way, if a criminal digs through every bit of your trash they won’t have all the pieces of the credit card.
The Bottom Line
Despite our technology-driven world, old-fashioned “dumpster diving” remains a popular method for stealing personal information.
Use these tips to avoid becoming a victim.