Rubbish day will never be the same again…not when fraudsters are sniffing around rubbish bins like alley cats at night looking for any kind of personally identifiable information on unsuspecting residents.

If people think there’s nothing that can be done with that old electricity bill, or scoff at credit card offers and bin them immediately, they may be surprised to know that the information they throw away could be pilfered and those criminals could be putting everything they hold dear at risk.

A growing crime known as ‘dumpster diving’ threatens the bank accounts, and the good name of many Australians every night. Personal information has become such a valuable commodity, criminals are willing to rifle through people’s rubbish to obtain it.

Here’s how it happens…

At night criminals are out on the streets of Australia going through rubbish bins. They are hunting for personal information to commit identity theft. This may not be their first time at a particular rubbish bin. They may be adding information to what they already have.

Or piecing together information from a variety of sources including the internet, until they have enough to go about obtaining duplicate copies of identification documentation.

Once this happens, they are able to take out credit such as loans, cards and even mortgage properties in the victim’s name.

This comes as Today Tonight  in its story ‘Identity Theft Alert‘ interviewed Rob Forsyth from security company SOPHOS on 14th October.  It was revealed that 2 in 5 Australians put old bank statements and other key personal papers into recycling.

Mr Forsyth says no suburb is immune to fraudsters rifling through that rubbish on the hunt for personal information.

“They know, because it’s public information which councils have pick-ups on which day, and whether it’s garden waste or recycled waste, and they will cruise through those streets in the middle of the night and go through the garbage bins,” Mr Forsyth says.

He says once they have enough personal information, they will on-sell that information abroad – including dumped bank statements, credit card offers, phone bills, which already bear the person’s name and address.

The Australian Crime Commission cites identity theft as the “fastest growing crime in Australia” , and a survey commissioned by the Attorney-General’s office in June revealed 1 in 6 people had been or knew someone who had been a victim of identity theft or misuse.

There are significant long-term implications for the identity theft victim past the initial monies lost if fraudsters gain access to a person’s credit rating.

If an account – fraudulent or otherwise – goes unpaid past 60 days, the creditor will list the non-payment as a ‘default’ on the person’s credit file. This default will remain on the credit file for 5 years and can severely hinder  any chances of obtaining credit during that time.

Often the first time victims of identity theft and subsequent fraud find out about the crime is when they go to apply for a loan or credit card and are refused due to defaults they were not aware of.

Adverse credit file listings such as defaults are not removed easily, and at this stage, victims have to do a whole lot of work to try and prove to creditors they were not responsible for the unpaid accounts, including providing Police reports.

Information should be treated with the respect it gets in criminal circles.

Here’s some simple ways to protect personal information from identity theft:

– Buy a shredder and cross -shred every piece of personally identifiable documentation that is no longer required before putting in the rubbish bin.

-Buy a safe for personal documents at home

-Put a lock on the letterbox to avoid mail being stolen.

-NEVER give out personal information to any person or entity without verifying their identity .

-Personal information is valuable – always question the need for people to have it. If in doubt – opt out.

Obtain a credit report regularly. People who may be vulnerable to identity theft can contact one or more of the major credit reporting agencies in Australia and request a copy of their credit file.  A credit file report is free for Australians every 12 months.

For a fee, Veda Advantage offers credit file holders an alert service, which tracks any changes to their credit file within a 12 month period.This could detect suspicious entries such as new credit enquiries or changes in contact details which would point to an identity theft attempt, allowing steps to be taken before the fraud affects the person’s good credit rating.

Personal information is so valuable to fraudsters. Shred it before you bin it, and lock it up if you want to keep it. Filter who gets it.  Protect your identity and your credit file integrity.

For more information on identity theft and credit repair, people may contact MyCRA Credit Repairs on 1300 667 218 or visit the main website

Image: Grant Cochrane /