Video: Dumpster diving can expose your personal information

Too often, trash contains enough info to make you a fraud victim


When you think about your identity being stolen you probably think of your online activity and hackers, but it doesn't have to be that complicated. There is a place behind your home and behind every business, often filled with sensitive information available to anyone who is looking.

You may think in the age of identity theft awareness, it's improbable your sensitive information would be tossed in a dumpster, unshredded and intact.

But one night of dumpster diving with Austin, Texas, based security expert Matt Malone showed us just how easily every one of us could be a victim.

"I'm 100 percent shocked," says Malone, owner of Assero Security. "I've actually went to large corporations with this information and said, 'Hey, here is confidential data, you guys are throwing it away, please shred it.' And still, they throw it away."

He's found an alarming amount of sensitive information in his expeditions, including a Rolodex filled with celebrities' details, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger's Social Security number and Donald Trump's cellphone number.

We decided to see for ourselves just how easy it is to find personal details that could ruin a person's credit, in a dumpster behind a business complex. It didn't take long.

"The first bag we pulled literally just right off the top," says Malone as he pulls a document from a dumpster, "has given us everything from credit card numbers, they've given us pretty much every asset this guy owns."

Including the man's Social Security number, address and phone number -- all part of a deposition that had been tossed out, perfectly packaged.

Unfortunately, there is little you can do to ensure that every place you do business with shreds your information before tossing it, but Malone says there are still safety measures you can take.

"Having an understanding of where your credit is, having a monitoring service, having some way to know if someone gets a credit inquiry on you," he says.

And make sure you are shredding all of your own documents before throwing them out. So your trash doesn't become another man's treasure. 

See related: Rating fraud: Not all security breaches are equal, Video: Hoard or shred? Organizing financial records, Video: Protecting your child from ID theft

Published: January 6, 2016

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Updated: 10-26-2016

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