Identity theft: Who’s going through your (unlocked) bins?
Criminal gangs are rummaging through domestic and commercial bins looking for items that can be used for fraud and identity theft.
The problem has reached such epidemic proportions in some areas that one national waste and recycling company is calling for lockable waste bins for households.
According to government statistics, identity theft hits the UK economy for £3.3 billion per year an average of £100 per British household, making the cost of adding locks to bins seem like small change, the Business Waste company says.
“Despite the prevalence of online phishing scams, pulling paperwork out of rubbish bins remains the most effective way of stealing somebody’s identity,” says BusinessWaste.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall.
“It only takes the experienced crook a few minutes to get everything they need names, addresses, dates of birth and even signatures. They can steal the identity of everybody in a whole street in just one night,” he says.
- Lockable waste bins are already widely used for the disposal of clinical waste, and are of exactly the same design as domestic wheelie bins.
- They typically cost £40 more than conventional bins, but with the very large numbers required to cover an entire council district, that price difference will inevitably narrow.
“In the long run, it would prove far cheaper to modify existing wheeled bins with locks,” says Hall. “Yes, it would cost money, but the long-term savings would be immense.
“With the help of banks and their insurers who ultimately bear the brunt of identity theft, it would pay for itself in the first year.”
There are still many councils areas across the UK that don’t have wheeled bins and rely solely on bagged waste, says Hall. “It would make sense for one of these towns to trial a lockable waste bin scheme, and we’re certain it would be a success.”
BusinessWaste.co.uk says that while your bins remain vulnerable, households should look toward the example set by businesses to ensure that their confidential waste remains confidential.
“You don’t have to shred every piece of paper with your name and address on,” says Hall, “As those details are already a matter of public record through the electoral roll.
“Just make sure financial documents, signatures and anything a bank might use to identify you are sufficiently destroyed to make them useless to thieves.”
Hall says that most of us don’t realise how easy most people make it for organised gangs of criminals to steal personal details.
“One page of a bank statement carelessly flung into the recycling is enough for the thief. Then you helpfully leave it outside your front door for them that’s why we need to make our bins more secure.”
Waste companies already deal with lockable bins on a daily basis, BusinessWaste.co.uk says. “It’s time to make us safer.”