News Story
Posted by Transylvania County on June 7, 2021

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.  Considering this, here are a few tips to help prevent your trash from turning into an identity theft headache.


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 it 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. 


Source: Jason Hanson & U.S. Department of Justice


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 


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 is: 


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.