You can’t be too neurotic about shredding sensitive documents to smithereens. For example, some people make a career out of “dumpster diving,” digging through trash in search of bank account information, credit card preapprovals, medical bills, mortgage statements, etc., and then they commit fraud, including creating new accounts with the found information—accounts in the victim’s name.

2PAnd by the way, anything with your signature can be a gem to the dumpster diver, as your signature can be forged.

Diving for Dollars

  • Dumpster diving is legal if the trash can is in a public spot including the big trash bin at your apartment complex.
  • Dumpster divers aren’t necessarily homeless men dressed in rags looking for discarded food. They may be professional identity thieves, and if they’re extra smart, they’ll dress like a vagrant to fool people into thinking they’re looking for food scraps.
  • Your trash can is a goldmine for an identity thief; think of what’s on all the paperwork you toss out, week after week—all sorts of tidbits about your life, from your favorite stores to your kids’ names.
  • A lot of personal details about you come simply from empty envelopes with their return addresses.


  • Buy a shredder. There are different kinds that shred at differing dimensions as well as various strengths (some shredders will slice and dice CDs).
  • Don’t buy a “strip-cut” type, as the shreds could be reconstructed. The “micro-cut” shreds at the smallest dimensions.
  • Believe it or not, there are crooks who will take the time to put back together a shredded document, including with the help of Unshredder, a computer program.


  • Keep a cardboard box handy that you continually fill up with shreddables.
  • Just toss documents that are on deck for burning into this box as you go throughout the day. Then incinerate the box.
  • A large stack of documents will not completely burn, so don’t place these in a motley arrangement so they aren’t “thick”.


  • Don’t leave boxes that contained expensive merchandise in plain view at your curb; this is almost the equivalent of sticking a sign there with bright red letters stating: “I just purchased a giant flat screen TV; come on in and steal it.” Destroy/shred

Ask yourself this question: If someone “stole” your trash, would that be a problem? If you say yes, then you toss too much data. For me, I don’t care, nothing I toss is of any value to anyone.

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.

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