Many of think that the junk we dispose of is simply that - junk. But some of what we toss out has a high value to a few people: identity thieves.
According to recent data from the FTC the top three identity theft categories for 2018 were credit card fraud, employment or tax-related fraud, and phone or utility fraud. Of these, credit card fraud was the highest reported, followed by employment or tax-related fraud.
What Was Yours Is Mine
While online hacking, phishing attacks and outright scams are the most publicized and obvious, another "old school" but effective tactic is going through other people's trash.
But that's illegal, right?
No, it's not, really. In fact, according to legal court precedence, other people can legally rummage through your trash. And this includes junk and other debris that you've hauled away or had removed for you.
Much of this is based on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the case of California vs. Greenwood which stated that the,
“Expectation of privacy in trash left for collection in an area accessible to the public… is unreasonable.”
Essentially, the Supreme Court of the United States held that the Fourth Amendment does not prohibit the warrantless search and seizure of garbage left for collection outside the curtilage of a home. "Curtilage" is simply a common law term that describes an area of land attached to a house and forming an enclosure with it.
Why is this important?
Because once your trash or your junk is outside the bounds of your immediate property, anyone can legally go through it. Worse, if they are looking for valuable personal information they can do so at their leisure and without any real fear of incrimination.
And Americans throw away all types of sensitive information about themselves, often without even realizing it. This is especially likely with old phones, tablets and other electronic devices that hold data such as old laptops and computers.
In other words, our trash and junk disposal practices really do matter. It wouldn't be as much of an issue except for all of the old bills, credit card receipts, bank statements and other types of trash we dispose of without much thought.
Throwing It Away Doesn't Make It "Go Away"
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) states that identity theft happens when someone steals your personal information to commit fraud.
"The identity thief may use your information to fraudulently apply for credit, file taxes, or get medical services. These acts can damage your credit status, and cost you time and money to restore your good name."
Identity thieves can find useful information in trash containers and dumpsters from bits and pieces of junk mail, personal and business financial statements, receipts and other items. You can be sure that experienced identity thieves know what to look for and how to find it.
Americans discard tons of paper trash every day and much of it contains personal information. The pieces of trash with information such as return addresses can provide criminals with the names of your bank, your insurance companies, doctor, and others. While none of these pieces of information by themselves are valuable, combined with other information about you, they can provide an identity thief the tools they need.
Her are some tips for keeping your identity safe from your trash:
- Secure your Social Security number (SSN). Don't carry your Social Security card in your wallet. Only give out your SSN when necessary.
- Don't share personal information such as your birthdate, Social Security number, or bank account number just because someone asks for it.
- Collect mail every day. Place a hold on your mail when you are away from home for several days.
- Pay attention to your billing cycles. If bills or financial statements are late, contact the sender.
- Review your credit card and bank account statements. Compare receipts with account statements. Watch for unauthorized transactions.
- Shred receipts, credit offers, account statements, and expired credit cards. This can prevent “dumpster divers” from getting your personal information.
Why Shredding Matters
Security experts agree that paper trash should routinely be shredded. And, as a general rule, this means shredding anything that may contain a signature, social security number, an account number, or any medical or legal information.
According to the company Legal Shred,
“The key word here is shred. Simply ripping an item a few times by hand will not do. Identity thieves will spend hours putting ripped documents back together like a jigsaw puzzle. After all, they know there can be a huge financial prize for solving the puzzle.”
Unfortunately, far too many people simply tear things in half and toss them in the trash, if they even do that much. Unsurprisingly, identity thieves will gladly take the time to put these ripped documents back together since the potential payoff for them is so great.
Consequently, most security experts emphasize that every household have a good quality shredder and that people make regular use of them.
Regardless of how your trash and junk is removed, making sure that nothing of value can be gotten from it is what matters. This is best done before your trash is actually removed because, while it may be legal for others to sift through your garbage, if there’s nothing to find you'll succeed in preventing this form of identity theft.
Disposing of Your Excess Household Garbage
Are your garbage items fairly large and heavy? They probably won’t take them in that case either.
Even if your garbage service does pick up your heavy items, you still need to haul the garbage out of your house and out onto the curb. Once the items are on the curb there is no telling whether they might be broken apart and littered on the street near your home. That never looks good.
Junk King provides an efficient, safe and eco-friendly garbage removal service for those items that your standard service won’t pick up. Our experienced garbage removal team will break down and haul off any types of large garbage items you have.
We’ll also do all the heavy lifting - no need to carry items out to the curb and have an eyesore for your neighbors to balk at for the week.
Our professional and insured garbage removal team will show up at your home or office and we call 15 minutes before we arrive on site. We’ll give you a free estimate based on how much space your garbage and junk will take up in our truck. You point and we haul the debris into our junk removal trucks, with no hidden fees.
Ready to safely and securely get rid of your garbage? It’s as simple as 1, 2, 3. You can make an appointment by booking online above or by calling 1.888.888.JUNK (5865).