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Rubbish Security and Identity Theft

Don't let criminals get your personal details! You can keep your secret info from getting into the wrong hands, just by some careful paranoid measures. In the old days, crooks used to try to break into treasure chests, safes, strongboxes, and other places where there might be a reasonable chance of finding some loot that was valuable. But you wouldn't expect the villains to be raiding your dustbin and picking through your garbage to see if they could find anything worthwhile. However, strange as it may seem, that is exactly what happens.

The average garbage bin contains "confidential waste", pieces of paper containing information useful to criminals. Your phone bill, bank statement, credit card slips, are all things which should not be left in bins where they can be extracted.

What the criminals do is to use the information, not just to spy on you, but to try to "steal your identity", as demonstrated in Frederick Forsyth's "Day of the Jackal", and then masquerading in your ID they apply for credit cards and spend money which you haven't got.

But not to worry. These perils can be avoided by some simple but paranoid measures. The expression "Don't Let Them Get Away With It" comes to mind!

Firstly, get to be able to know what counts as "confidential waste". Any utility bills are in that category, as they have your secret "customer number" on. Crooks presenting this kind of stuff to a bank may be believed when they claim to be you. Similarly, any special documents which have personal info other than your name and address. Any official letters, forms, papers to do with money transactions, receipts, all these are confidential. Anything with your national security number on it, or your passport number, or special code numbers of any kind. These are best kept secret.

The problem is that if criminals get hold of your personal information they will be able to pretend to be you and can fool various companies, organisations, and government departments into allowing them to do things in your name. They can steal your money, open bogus credit accounts, order ridiculous stuff for you, and generally be a complete nuisance. Part of the reason they can get away with this is because of a depressingly faithlike belief by companies, organisations, and government departments that their security systems actually work, rather than using commonsense as well!

With any of this kind of stuff, it's best to either KEEP anything confidential (recommended), or to dispose of it in such a way that it can not be recovered. Combustion is quite effective, especially if the ashes are then mashed and mixed with stuff. There are other ways, although the alternative office shredder is just a bit eccentric for most people. Another solution is to mash the confidential waste and mix it with manure for spreading on the garden. As well as being ecological there is also a smug satisfaction that hypothetical attempts to recover the stuff would be part of a process of natural justice.

If you move house, it's important to make sure that any significant contacts no longer send confidential material to your old address. Mail redirection is one solution, but it's also possible to cover most eventualities by telling all companies and organisations you have dealings with.

One of the most important items to keep secret is your PIN which is associated with a money account. The recommended way to deal with this is to learn the number, make sure you can remember it perfectly, and then dispose of the letter on which it has arrived. Tear out the section with the number and burn it. Then tear the remainder of the letter up and put it in the dustbin. Criminals may waste hours searching for the missing piece of the jigsaw, which of course no longer exists.

Slips associated with "hole in the wall" machines (ATM) accessed by a credit card are also a risk. Don't leave slips in those neat "no litter please" boxes on the wall, as there is an inherent risk. Instead, take any unwanted slips home and burn them. Also beware of ATM Scams

Of course Barclaycard will tell you to cut your old credit card in half when you receive your new one. It's surprising how many people don't do this. But, to be fair to your own security, you should either incinerate the old card or store it for posterity in your own secure archive, rather than leaving it in the bin for anyone to find.

So, if anyone were to search your rubbish bin, let them find used teabags, eggshells, torn-up junkmail, cat litter, fish and chip paper, vacuum cleaner emptyings, apple cores, burst party balloons, empty bottles, bones, shards of broken glass, and things which are best not mentioned in polite company, and let them fail to find your personal details.

Pedantic note: Yes, we know rubbish is recyclable. This is to be encouraged. See Ecological Resources

Identity theft on the Internet has to be guarded against, and for this there are a quite different set of sensible measures which can be taken to protect yourself the problem. See the article "PHISHING" which is reproduced from a newsletter by 2nd to Nunn. Also see the Stranded Friend ID hijack scam!

Be careful of incoming phone calls saying you've won a prize, as they often can't tell you anything like your name as a prizewinner or anything about the card that's alleged to have won.

Identity theft has been given a huge boost because of the appalling misbehaviour of the Big Brother authorities in the UK. See Passport Problems

There are some more in-depth erudite papers on Internet Security at such pages as www.lightbluetouchpaper.org/2010/01/25/how-hard-can-it-be-to-measure-phishing/ and http://www.lightbluetouchpaper.org/ - Interesting!