Identity Thieves Dumpster Diving During Tax Season

Identity theft and the resulting fraud are real. They are big problems. They are big business, and they are not going away any time soon. Mainly we focus on the protection of our digital identities and confidential information. Not that that isn’t important (it is how I make my living, after all), but we too often lose site of the low hanging fruit – our physical records – how we store them, and how we dispose of them.

Late last night, one of my neighbors posted on Facebook that a van was driving through the neighborhood stealing people’s trash (today is trash day, so it was all sitting out front). Tons of people witnessed it, and a few guys started following them through the neighborhood, trying to box them in until the cops showed.

The van ended up speeding around the ad hoc roadblock and tearing down the main drag before two police officers stopped them after a small pursuit.

Identity thieves targeting a large, middle class neighborhood. They got a ton. One of the neighbors said the van was overflowing with garbage bags. And they got away with nothing more than a ticket for speeding and running a red light…because dumpster diving is legal. Everyone’s trash was on the other side of the sidewalk from their property, so they technically weren’t even tresspassing, and your trash is fair game.

Moral of the story: information isn’t just digital, neither is securing it. Especially during tax season, when everyone is receiving their tax documents, the ID thieves are a busy enterprising lot. Taking into consideration how many people are now receiving their W2s and other statements online, but that employers are required by law to send physical copies, as well, there’s a boatload of personally identifiable and financial information ending up on the curb.

Be vigilient about destroying your sensitive data. Invest in a shredder, or if your employer has one, ask if you can bring your personal documents in for disposal. Before this happened, a number of folks in our community had asked our HOA to sponsor regular data destruction days, and to rent the services of a shredding company for the use of the residents.

Just some things to keep in mind.