Dumpster Diving and Identity Theft: The Low-Tech Risk You Didn’t See Coming
Identity theft is frequently portrayed as a high-tech offence, but the reality is often far more analog. With the prevalence of cybercrime, one may overlook the oldest trick in the book: dumpster diving. In Australia, the rates of identity theft are rising, and low-tech methods like these still pose a significant threat. So, how can you safeguard against this antiquated yet effective form of identity theft? Let’s delve into some real-life examples.
Real Stories, Real Risks
Take, for instance, a Sydney-based retail store. A young man asked for permission to go through the shop’s dumpster to find boxes for his move. Instead, he unearthed stacks of discarded job applications. With this goldmine of personal data, he opened numerous credit card accounts in the names of these unsuspecting applicants.
The scam was simple yet effective. He purchased items from one location, returned them at another for a gift card, and then sold these gift cards at half-price. While this sounds almost entrepreneurial, the cost to the individuals whose identities were stolen was immense1.
What Are Thieves Looking For?
- Preapproved credit card offers.
- Bank and investment statements.
- Billing invoices.
- Loan offers.
- Internal directories.
- Health benefit letters.
In another instance, a group of criminals targeted a Melbourne-based business by first retrieving its internal phone directory from a dumpster. They contacted the company’s finance team, posing as a local charity. The staff, believing they were aiding a charitable cause, handed over documents that were then used to place fraudulent orders for expensive office equipment later sold online2.
Protecting Yourself and Your Organization
Luckily, defending against dumpster diving is relatively straightforward if the right precautions are taken:
- Shredding is Caring: Always use the organisation’s shredders or secure document destruction services to dispose of sensitive documents.
- Don’t Bin It, Lock It: Ensure your organisation’s dumpsters and waste bins are secure. Install padlocks and restrict access to authorised personnel only.
- Internal Policies are Your Friend: Follow the organisation’s privacy and document destruction guidelines. Familiarise yourself with the Australian Privacy Principles under the Privacy Act of 19883.
- Stay Informed, Stay Secure: Keep abreast of your organisation’s cyber awareness training, which should cover social engineering and low-tech methods of data theft. Resources like the Australian Cyber Security Centre’s Essential Eight can be particularly useful4.
- Conduct Regular Audits: Organisations should conduct regular waste audits to ensure compliance with disposal policies. If you’re unsure about how to do this, organisations like the National Association for Information Destruction Australia can help5.
Time to Act
In the time it took you to read this article, numerous Australians could have fallen victim to identity theft through low-tech means like dumpster diving. It’s not just a numbers game; it’s a reality that affects the lives of real people. So, will you take these comprehensive steps to protect yourself, your customers, and your organisation?
By addressing these simple but effective prevention methods, you don’t just protect your identity and financial well-being; you contribute to safeguarding the community at large. Take action today and ensure you aren’t the next victim of this overlooked form of identity theft.