With the new 10 cent collection system in NSW it has become socially acceptable to go through rubbish bins.  Whether or not you think it is helpful, no one calls the Police or pays much attention at all when a person goes up and down the street going through the rubbish.  This has ramifications for identity theft.



Recycling is great, but ...

We love recycling, don't get us wrong.  It is important that we reduce landfill and we have no problem with initiatives aimed at better sorting of rubbish per se.  However, it wasn't that long ago that if someone was seen going through mail boxes and yellow lidded bins (containing documents) then the Police might be called.  Unfortunately the bin where cans and bottles go is the same bin where you are most likely to throw the sort of letters and documents that a person might need to steal your identity.



But it's just rubbish?

You might think that, but actually your rubbish can tell a person a lot about you.  Firstly and most importantly a person can probably figure out from your discarded personal documents your home address, your full name, your phone number and possibly your place of work and date of birth.  This should be enough for them to falsify a credit claim.  A friend has recently found out, after some of her mail was stolen, that two credit applications were made in her name and denied.



So what should I do?

There is really no substitute for getting a paper shredder.  You can make sure, every time that you get a bill or invoice in the mail, that you swap to "paperless" invoices, but you will still get some documents through the mail as you cannot unsubscribe to a lot of this stuff.  Those documents you do get can be from the government and include even more valuable information.  You need to shred those documents.

I personally take such documents to work.  We have to shred documents at work and my occasional two pages of mail don't contribute to the cost of shredding so my boss doesn't mind.  Perhaps you or your partner also has access to something like this, or perhaps your work has a physical shredder and you can quickly put the two pages through on your lunch break.



What if my identity has been stolen?

If your identity has been stolen, or you have reason to suspect it has, then you need to notify the Police and your Bank.  If you think someone is stalking you, trying to gain your personal information to then gain access to something like your internet records or your phone records, then unfortunately you will need to significantly broaden the list of people that you contact.  Many organisations will allow you to make a note on your file that you think your identity has been stolen, you could ask them to only take action on your account if they call you back on your mobile number (to stop someone else from calling in pretending to be you).



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