Identity theft is a $50 billion a year industry that continues to expand its reach. There is a lucrative black market for stolen identities and there is no limit to how low thieves will sink to obtain them. Although identity thieves are becoming more and more savvy at gaining access to people’s personal information, dumpster diving – the act of going into people’s garbage for junk mail, bank statements or other material that may contain personal information – is still an easy way for thieves to get what they want.
You know the saying about riding motorcycles, “It’s not if you’ll take a fall, but when”? Well, identity is not so different. Identity theft has become so commonplace that every consumer should beware. And while there is no guarantee against identity theft, you can certainly take steps to protect yourself such as using credit monitoring services and protecting your own trash can. Invest in a paper shredder at your local office supply store and shred anything that has a signature, account number, social security number, or medical or legal information before you toss it out. If you have a small or large business, implement procedures on how to dispose of company information so that everyone who works for you knows what to throw away, store securely, or dispose of by shredding. There are a multitude of companies that can craft and implement these security measures for you. Your rule of thumb should be – Don’t even think of throwing away anything that could be used to gather information about you.
This rule of thumb extends beyond your home and your office. A public dumpster is a treasure trove for an Identity thief. Pay close attention to whatever you throw away at work, when cleaning out your car at the gas station or in any other public place. To be safest, never discard documents containing information such as a Social Security number, driver’s license number, or bank account number into a public trash bin. It might seem like a bit of extra work, but it could save you a big headache in the longrun.