Dumpster diving may sound like an odd way to make a buck, but hey, the overhead is low. Believe it or not, thieves do sift through trash in search of statements, bills, invoices, pre-approved offers of credit – any documents containing personal details. And now, thanks to recycling, they don’t even have to wade through rotting food to get to that nice, clean paper.
With the information gained from your trash, identity thieves can forge documents, charge goods on your credit card, open up new accounts in your name, all without your even realizing it. One victim, a single father, didn’t even know his identity was compromised until large sums of money were transferred from his savings account to his checking account. Then the police showed up at his house with copies of his driver’s license with somebody else’s face on it. Hundreds of false IDs in his name and the names of other victims were found in a house raided by police during a drug bust. A Florida man was arrested for forging checks using information gained through dumpster diving and mailbox theft. Police said he was making up to $10,000 a week in the scam.
Mailbox theft is essentially dumpster diving without the dumpster. If you stop receiving mail or are missing certain pieces of mail, you may be the victim of identity theft. Thieves can submit a change of address form to have mail redirected or may go directly to mailboxes and retrieve mail.
Bank and credit card statements aren’t the only pieces of mail that are useful to criminals. Personal mail such as cards or letters also contain personal information that can be used to perpetrate different kinds of scams. In one case, a con man phoned up the parents of a teenage girl to say she had been injured in an accident in Colorado. They needed to provide her Social Security number to authorize treatment. The caller seemed legitimate because he knew the daughter’s name, where she was and what she was doing – all information she had put in a postcard to her parents the week before.