As the saying goes, one man's trash is another man's treasure, but perhaps not in the ways that you'd expect. Unfortunately, these days we must be very careful about the information we share about ourselves. Personal information, even facts that seem innocuous, can affect our personal and home security if they get into the wrong hands.
How does this personal information about us get out? Well, one of the main ways identity thieves and other criminals get their information is through our trash. Your trash, perhaps surprisingly, is a treasure trove of information for thieves. Your bank statements, credit card applications, bills, and any other information that is the least bit personal should be shredded, not simply thrown in the garbage. If you don't have a shredder, get one, and use it often. It's better to err on the side of caution than to leave yourself open to identity theft.
Your trash doesn't just hold information for identity thieves, but also burglars, as well. Your vacation confirmations, receipts for the purchase of jewelry or electronics, and party invitations can indicate to burglars when you'll be away from the home and what they can expect to find if they break in. Information on the lawncare, housecleaning, and utility services you employ can be used by a creative burglar who dresses up in these uniforms to get into your home. Even personal letters, notes containing friends' phone numbers, and shopping lists can be of use. When pieced together, a surprising amount of information can be deciphered about your habits.
Savvy burglars can even use the timing of your trash pickup to their advantage. Trash cans that are put outside several days before the pickup, left by the curb for days after the pickup, or don't get put out on the regular trash day often indicate that the home is empty. When you leave for an extended period of time, your home is at its most vulnerable. If you are on vacation, have a neighbor move your trash cans so that the home looks occupied. When you are at home, avoid placing your garbage outside until the night before trash pickup; otherwise, your trash is simply waiting for criminals to sort through it.
Your garbage can is surprisingly available to thieves the second you put it outside. In fact, in many areas there are no laws at all regarding dumpster diving or taking away personal trash that a homeowner has left by the curb on garbage pickup day. The information is simply there for the taking by any unscrupulous criminal who happens to see it.
While it may seem overzealous to pay so much attention to what we're throwing away, it is much better to be overly cautious than to find yourself the target of identity theft or a home burglary. Everyone needs to be careful with the information they share with the world, even if it's being shared through your garbage. Be careful what goes in that trash can, because you can never really know where it will go from there.