When you’re taking out the trash in your homeowners association, remembering what you actually threw away is probably the least of what is going through your mind. Most, but not all, identity theft now occurs electronically. But your identity can still be easily scored by thieves who make use of what you toss in your waste basket.
Trash facilities and recycling centers can be gold mines of personal information for enterprising dumpster divers. That is unless you shred documents that contain identifying information; charge receipts, credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, canceled checks and bank statements and even expired charge cards.
Beware of Credit Card Offers
Be careful when you receive those bothersome credit offers you get in the mail and toss unopened into the trash, particularly the pre-approved variety. Clever scammers complete these blank applications, obtain a credit card in your name, charge it to the limit and close the account before you receive the first billing statement. To protect yourself, all you have to do is shred or tear the unopened envelop in half once or twice before tossing it in the waste basket.
Choose to OPT OUT
Your homeowners association doesn’t want you to be a victim of identity theft, and recommends you eliminate these prescreened credit offers from your mailbox by calling 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888-567-8688) to opt out. You’ll be asked to provide your Social Security number so the consumer reporting companies can match you with your file. You can also opt out via the Internet here.
If you prefer not to disclose your Social Security number and date of birth, the online form does not require this information. However, the website strongly urges you to provide this information because it helps ensure that your request will be processed correctly, and it protects your information from unauthorized access.
Opting out is good for five years. However, if you’d like your name removed permanently, you will be mailed a confirmation form within about five business days to sign and return. For more information see the FTC’s Facts for Consumers, Prescreened Offers of Credit and Insurance.
You've Got Mail!
Also, deposit your outgoing mail containing personally identifying information in post office collection boxes or at your local post office, rather than in an unsecured mailbox. Promptly remove mail from your mailbox. If you're planning to be away from home and can't pick up your mail, have a neighbor in your homeowners association pick it up for you, or contact the U.S. Postal Service at 1-800-275-8777 or online at www.usps.gov to request a vacation hold. The Postal Service will hold your mail at your local post office until you can pick it up or are home to receive it.
The Federal Trade Commission has more information on identity theft and prevention tips.