They’ve probably been around for as long as people have been putting out garbage for collection. Trash pickers have a knack for retrieving something of value, either to themselves or others, from a garbage can.
The past few decades has seen increased use of large dumpsters for industrial and commercial waste, and major recycling programs for residential areas. That increase in output, and the separation of recyclables, has turned mere ‘trash picking’ into the sexier sounding ‘dumpster diving’. And many dumpster divers are turning the practice into a profession; sometimes a criminal one.
We’ve told you before about dumpster divers who found, and sold, corporate and personal information. Among the items they were easily able to retrieve were bank statements, passport photocopies, phone bills, and hotel guest lists, including names, credit card numbers and social insurance numbers. In one case, divers looking for electronic parts for resale found old mobile devices with personal information, passwords and photos – perfect supplies for identity thieves.
Steps to Protect Your Sensitive Information
First, don’t expect the law to protect you from having your information stolen after you throw it out. Dumpster diving is perfectly legal in Ontario as long as the divers don’t do it on private property.
Second, there’s really only one thing you can do to protect your data: securely destroy it before you put it out as waste or recycling.
In the case of paper documents, the only way to ensure your information can never be retrieved, or reconstructed, is to have it all shredded according to NAID (National Association for Information Destruction) ‘AAA’ certification standards.
It’s easy to know which documents to shred before they are ready to be recycled: all of them. While you’ll have many documents that don’t have sensitive data, it’s difficult to put them into a category. Even post-it notes can carry sensitive data, signatures, phone numbers, etc..
Certified Hard-drive and Electronic Media Destruction
Electronics, including computer hard-drives, memory sticks, and mobile devices, should be certifiably destroyed before disposal.
It’s better to be safe than to lose your identity, or your customer’s, so destroy all paper and electronic media that has sensitive data before you recycle them.