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identity thief

Dumpster Diving – One Person’s Trash is an Identity Thief’s Treasure!

Learn easy ways to protect yourself and our customers from identity theft.

Every 60 seconds, another 28 Americans become victims of identity theft. Media coverage makes it seem like identity theft is a high-tech crime, but many identity thieves find private information the old-fashioned way; by digging through dumpsters and discarded papers. Check out these real stories.

A 24-year-old woman asked the manager of a retail store in Tennessee if she could rummage through its dumpster to find moving boxes. What she found was hundreds of job applications that the business had simply tossed into its trash. Using the information in these job applications, the woman opened over 100 department-store credit card accounts in the names of the job applicants. As reported by local news,

“She’d take the merchandise, go to the same store but a different location, and return it. When returning it, [the store] would present her with a gift card … then she’d simply take that gift card and sell it in the community for half price.”


Low-tech methods for stealing personal information—like dumpster diving—account for close to 90% of all identity theft in America. Consumers and businesses alike share the risk of identity theft. Identity thieves look for:

  • ​Preapproved credit card offers.
  • Bank account statements.
  • ​Billing/shipping invoices.
  • ​Mortgage/student loan refinance and line of credit offers.
  • ​Internal telephone directories.
  • ​Medical benefit letters.

Here’s another example:
Criminals in Kansas found a business’ telephone directory in the dumpster and used it to directly contact the company’s billing clerk. When the criminals called the clerk, they claimed to be a local charity trying to raise funds for cancer research through a paper drive. The clerk quickly assembled as much paper trash as he could find and happily handed it over to the criminals—without checking the trash first. The criminals used old billing invoices to make charges for office equipment that they later sold online.

Luckily, preventing this kind of theft is easy when you follow some simple guidelines. You can protect our organization, our customers, and yourself by:

  • ​Safeguarding your trash. Use our organization’s shredder or shredding system to destroy all documents with personally identifiable information.
  • ​Restricting access to our organization’s dumpsters and other waste bins.
  • ​Following our organization’s privacy and document destruction policies.

In the two minutes it took you to read this article, another 63 Americans became identity theft victims. Will you take these simple actions to avoid their fate and protect your identity and the identities of our customers?

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