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ZAGWRITER's avatar

I think my garbage was stolen. Should I freak out now?

Asked by ZAGWRITER (1506 points ) June 7th, 2010

I went to throw away some garbage this morning, and when I opened my garbage can, there was almost nothing in there. I looked at the ground, and a blinds box we threw away was scattered on the lawn. I picked it up and took the garbage to the curb, and noticed pieces of a foam noodle floaty thing were scattered on the lawn by my car, and further inside my lawn behind my fence. Now, I could have sworn I had more garbage in there than I saw, but I am not sure. Earlier in the week I also threw out some grease too, so maybe it was just a dog? Should I be concerned? My credit is poor, so it’s not like they could do much in that regards if it indeed was an identity thief, but is there something I should do, or just chalk it up to a hungry dog?

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32 Answers

chyna's avatar

Maybe a raccoon got into your garbage. They are notorious scavengers. Or it could’ve been a dog. Neither of which will be stealing your identity.

Fyrius's avatar

Wild animals sound more plausible… I’d think an identity thief would be more discreet about it.

ZAGWRITER's avatar

ok, I am naturally paranoid, so I was wondering if I was over-reacting.

gorillapaws's avatar

Probably just an animal, although it might be wise to contact your bank/credit card companies and ask them to contact you if there’s any suspicious activity on the account.

CMaz's avatar

If you are not impotent. Have crappy credit and have properly dispose of “sensitive” information.

Forget About It.

I shred everything. Get a shredder.

ZAGWRITER's avatar

we always tear things up before we throw them away, but we don’t have a shredder.

roundsquare's avatar

I agree… sounds like an animal. But still, no harm in looking for strange activity on your credit card over the next week or so.

zenele's avatar

There was a suspicious looking raccoon buying all kinds of electronics in the store today.

Response moderated
Nullo's avatar

As a general rule, be sure to blot out things like account numbers on your bank statements before throwing them out.

ZAGWRITER's avatar

great idea @Nullo . Thanks.

tragiclikebowie's avatar

Raccoon, possum or bear (depending on where you live). Dog’s aren’t really capable of opening garbage cans.

ZAGWRITER's avatar

it was kind of propped open by the blinds box, but I know what you mean.

blueberry_kid's avatar

NOt to be rude, but do not freak out over a trashcan. Maybe an animal ate through it, maybe when you put it outside the wind knocked it over and all the trash fell out, you can always buy a trashcan for hopefully less than $50, i know you wouldnt want to pay for one but why not, its a stupid trashcan. Calm down, dont freak out.

blueberry_kid's avatar

Actually, no let me rephrase that, you should be freaked out because if you wouldve had like some type of identity in the trashcan, that person couldve stolen the identity and be a criminal, he is one anyway for stealing your trash. Have you called the police? They can investigate that if possible.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

It was probably animals but at least it brought to your attention possible things you’ve been throwing you’d be better shredding. The last time I looked, stores had them on sale for about $30. I use one at my workplace but will be getting one for home since there are now three adults getting mail there. Not a bad price for better peace of mind.

JLeslie's avatar

I have lifelock protection and I am happy with it. I opened a new credit card at Banana Republic a few weeks ago and Lifelock called me within minutes to alert me my identity had been used to open a charge account.

janbb's avatar

Raccoons are notorious garbage thiefs. I wouldn’t worry unless suspicious charges for goggles and people-skinned coats show up on your credit card bills.

Kraigmo's avatar

Important papers shouldn’t be in the garbage anyway.
They should be recycled, along with all other cardboard and paper, cans, glass, and #1 and #2 plastic.

chronohart's avatar

@Kraigmo, important papers should be properly shredded whether they’re being recycled or not. You’ve been misled if you believe recycling is sufficient protection against identity theft.

@ZAGWRITER, you should definitely invest in a paper shredder.

Kraigmo's avatar

@chronohart, I thought shredding was implied in what I said. Of course that stuff should be shredded.

But never thrown in the trash.

charliecompany34's avatar

i think the racoons know i’m a chef. they go thru my garbage every night like, “yeah, this is the house right here, dog—you gotta up in this garbage bro.”

chyna's avatar

@charliecompany34 If you were my neighbor, I’d probably be going through it too. I’m sure there are better meals in your garbage than in my lean cuisine’s or peanut butter toast.

SmashTheState's avatar

Shredding isn’t a guarantee either. I recall seeing pictures of Iranian students painstakingly gluing together shredded paper in the US embassy after they took it over.

Kayak8's avatar

Let me share another side of this story . . . A friend of mine’s ex illegally ran off with her child to another state—we had no idea where. Every week for about three years, a group of us went to his parent’s house the night before trash day (they had placed it at the curb, so it was fair game). We collected every single bag of their trash every week and took it to another friend’s garage where we methodically dumped the bags onto a tarp and went through every piece of trash. If it didn’t give us a clue to the child’s whereabouts, we threw it into a new bag and pitched it into our own trashcans. We were all honest and had a very specific goal, but there was a great deal of information and a less reputable group could have had a field day.

Finally, one day we found a prescription bottle in the child’s name (apparently she had been a recent visitor at her grandparents and had a few days left on an antibiotic). It indicated the address of the pharmacy in the father’s town in Florida. Armed with this information, my friend was able to provide leads to the custody attorney and the local police and her child was eventually located and returned to her.

So sometimes people go through your trash very specifically to find information (sometimes for nefarious purposes and sometimes much less so). Then there are times that animals go through your trash as well . . .

jerv's avatar

Most likely it is an animal. If not then you stll have nothing to worry about unless you are naive enough to throw away credit card offers, bank statements, or similar sensitive items without shredding them to hell first.

Personally, most of my trash consists of coffee grounds and cat food cans with the occasional bit of non-reconstructable confetti (I’ve been on the other side enough to know how taping stuff together works and thus how to foil them) so I don’t care who gets ahold of my trash.

Nullo's avatar

@SmashTheState That’s why you want a crosscut shredder, which makes confetti out of everything. Sure, even that can be reconstructed, but you’d need someone with a lot of patience.

@jerv Your shady history sounds like it would make a good story. Tell?

jerv's avatar

@Nullo I am a true hacker, and not just in the computer sense. While some of the stuff I have done in my youth could be described as nefarious, the real motivation was “Because I can” or “I like a challenge”. Not much to tell beyond that aside from the fact that I do the whole measure/counter-measure/counter-counter-measure/counter-counter-counter-measure/ad nauseum thing as a mere intellectual exercise merely to alleviate boredom.

Kayak8's avatar

@jerv A man after my own heart! After my escapades, I routinely pitch half of my shredded stuff one week in one location and the other half a different week at a different location. I love the counter-counter measures the best!

janbb's avatar

Hey – if anyone is that desperate to steal my identity, they can have it, as long as I get to pick a new one.

Kayak8's avatar

@janbb Who would you bb?

janbb's avatar

Maybbb?

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