Your trash is someone else's treasure.

Why would someone dig through your trash? What is in there?

Shred your trashI just watched an interesting movie called "This Film Is Not Yet Rated". While the movie was about the movie rating system that is overseen by the Motion Picture Association of America, there was one scene in particular that caught my attention. The director of the movie, Kirby Dick, was trying to get information about the people that make up the group that determines the ratings.

Apparently, the MPAA had not shared that information in the past, and would not give Kirby Dick the the names either. Determined to find the names of the raters, Dick hired a private investigator to help him dig up information. She found out many of their names and was instructed to get as much information about them as possible. One of the tactics used by the private investigator was to go through their trash as shown in the movie clip below. Both the investigator and Dick put on gloves, dug in, and had no problem quickly finding out all kinds of information.

Watch how easy it is to steal trash AND your personal information! (Warning - graphic language)

January through March is a great time to find identity information in your trash.
During the first couple of months of a new year many people start to think about their taxes. In order to get ready for their taxes they start to clean up many of their paper records, such as bank statements, paystubs, and receipts. Often many records will just get thrown away because they are no longer needed. This is a great time for identity thieves to find treasure in your trash.

Like detectives they can take pieces of information about you in order to put together a more complete picture of your life and identity. They can then leverage that information in order to gain access to your assets.

Just because you wouldn't go through the trash doesn't mean someone else wont.
How often do you think about what is going into your trash can? Perhaps, YOU wouldn't want to go in there after something, but statistics show there are plenty of people who are perfectly willing to sift through your garbage. According to the Better Business Bureau "Because people find it hard to believe that anyone would want to pour through garbage cans, they throw away the darndest things - things like unsolicited credit card applications, old bills, expired credit cards, unused checking account deposit slips and countless other papers. So, for the identity thief, a bit of "dumpster diving" can provide a rich harvest of personal information - information that can be used to become you."

How to protect yourself.
Protecting yourself at home is fairly easy. While you will find some elaborate techniques used by some, such as pouring or spraying chemicals on the trash or using substances to create a horrible smell, simply shredding your discarded mail and paperwork should work. Just be sure to shred anything that contains personal information about you or your family. Even discarded pictures should be shredded. You could shred by hand, but there are many affordable paper shredders available. Another option may be if your local Better Business Bureau or chamber of commerce hosts a community paper shredding day. MB

 
The Quarter Roll is published to provide personal insights and opinions on everyday ways of saving and managing money, budgeting, and reducing debt. The Quarter Roll does not give professional accounting, legal, or investing counsel. The ideas, examples, and advice presented on this site are solely the opinion of the authors based on his or her personal experiences. All photos courtesy of The Quarter Roll, iStockphoto, or Dreamstime. All rights reserved. This site is best viewed when using Adobe Flash Player. the quarter roll magazine financial entertainment