Garbage is the least valuable thing you own, right? While this is true in most cases, your garbage could become a major expense if you do not watch out. With all of the bills that we pay and the credit card offers that we turn down, there is a paper trail of garbage that contains some of our most personal information. Your garbage could contain your credit card information, an old check that could be used to create forgeries, your name and address, and all sorts of other information that could be used to steal your identity and your money. So while it seems truly strange to imagine someone sifting through your garbage to take money from you, realize that there are some pretty desperate and terrible people out there who would do just about anything to get a few dollars. If someone were to go through your trash and find an unaccepted credit card offer they might only need to respond to the credit card company and activate the card. At this point they could use the card to purchase just about anything they wanted, and you would be responsible to pay for it. The same is true for old checks, which could be used to forge a new check with your bank account information.
Realize that it doesn’t take much skill or effort to create fairly convincing forgeries.Someone with a standard printer and some computer software could print a check that looks almost exactly like a real one. The check could even be deposited without any notice on the part of a bank. In many cases it would take a couple of weeks before the bank realized that the check was a forgery, and at that point you could be in serious trouble because the forger would be long gone.
Although banks and credit card companies can be forgiving in these situations, you never know how they will respond, and if there is a lot of money involved you will probably have to pay a portion of it. The best way to prevent this type of identity theft is to make sure that your garbage does not contain any information that could be used for identity theft.
One great method to insure that it does not is to purchase a shredder in order to shred all unwanted documents. This insures that a criminal could in no way retrieve information from your garbage. Other options would be to cut or rip up any paper information before it goes into the trash. If you have a wood burning stove or fire place you could also burn the information, thereby completely destroying it. Never throw away any letter without opening it first. Even if you don’t want to accept a credit card offer you should definitely look the offer over and destroy it rather than just throwing it into the trash. Any old checks should be voided and then completely destroyed. Also, keep your garbage to the side of your home rather than just out in the open where someone could easily access it or go through it. The more removed the garbage is from the street the more difficult it is for someone to look through it without being noticed. Make it difficult for them and they will probably just try to find a house where it is easier.
Following these basic guidelines can help to keep you and your family safe from identity theft. Although this form of identity theft might not be as common as others, it is still a reality and one that you need to be aware of.