Every week, most Americans go through the routine of pulling the trash can out to the curb so while they’re at work the refuse can be hauled away. This practice is such an integral part of modern life that upon moving into a new neighborhood we make it a point to immediately learn what day is trash day.
Trash day is what most of us call it. Identity thieves have a different name for that important day of the week.
They call it cash day.
Identity thieves refer to trash day as cash day because it is the day of the week when they can prowl neighborhoods looking for trash to turn into cash. And they rarely need to travel far. In most trash cans on any street across the country an identity thief can strike gold. After all, what most of us carelessly toss away as unwanted junk mail or outdated documents can be just like winning the lottery to the trained eye of an identity criminal.
Every day, trash cans contain our personal information on a wide range of documents we casually discard.
The types of items identity thieves seek include:
- Expired credit and debit cards
- Credit and debit card receipts
- Unused credit card checks
- Credit card statements
- Pre-approved credit card offers and applications
- Checking and savings account statements
- Canceled checks
- Investment account statements
- Pension account statements
- Paycheck stubs
- Wage and earnings statements
- Phone and utility bills
- Retail invoices and statements
- Tax returns and statements
- Medical bills
- Insurance claim information
- Insurance policy information (auto, health, life)
- Expired identification documents (driver’s licenses and passports)
Truth be told, even an unsophisticated thief can use any item in your trash that contains just your name as the starting point to steal your identity.
But, an identity criminal will have an even easier time causing you harm if your trash contains other documents that supply information such as: return addresses on envelopes that indicate where you bank; who your doctor is; where your investments are held; who your mortgage is maintained by; and other similar information that provides a blueprint of your life the criminal covets.
Fortunately, identity theft resulting from items stolen from the trash is the easiest type of crime to prevent. By simply shredding any document, receipt, address label, or piece of paper with identifying information like account numbers, we can stop identity thieves in their tracks.
But the key word 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.
For that reason, it is important that every household have at least one quality cross-cut shredder. A good cross-cut shredder will turn any document into tiny useless scraps of unreadable paper in a matter of seconds. Even better is to keep a shredder with each waste basket where you toss documents containing personal information. In many homes this will mean the kitchen and home office or other areas where you review mail and pay bills.
Remember: Don’t toss out your identity to a waiting thief. Use a shredder.