Personal Info Safety


  • Thieves can use even the most mundane of personal details to help them "verify" that they are someone they aren't, and one of the most common ways of obtaining personal details is "bin-raiding". This is surprisingly common in affluent areas and is spreading out of towns to the countryside; with 75% of local authorities now admitting it happens regularly in their area.
  • An exercise carried out with the support of Nottingham City Council and Nottinghamshire Police analyzed the contents of hundreds of household bins to see what people were throwing away. It found that 86% of domestic rubbish contained information helpful to fraudsters.
  • Three quarters of the bins that were checked contained the full name and address of at least one person from the household, while 20% of bins contained a bank account number and sort code that could be linked to the name and address of a person from the house.
  • So don't keep all of your bills, receipts and other personal documents in an obvious place, if you can lock it away. If you don't have anywhere to lock it, try and keep it somewhere out of the way, or separate it out. Consider investing in a shredder!
  • Identity thieves will also try to dupe you into giving personal information either in person, over the phone or by using official sounding e-mails. And of course, personal computers can hold plenty of information useful to fraudsters.
  • Be wary. Be suspicious of anyone seeking too much personal information, and don't be afraid to challenge them by asking "why do you need those details?" - A legitimate enquirer won't mind you asking. Make sure you store all important documents and details, such as your birth certificate, national insurance number, receipts and bank statements, in a safe place.
  • Anything containing personal information that you intend to throw out should be destroyed before it is put in the bin. Using a household paper shredder is not taking things too far. If you think you have become the victim of an identity thief, report it to the police, local authority and relevant Government departments or companies immediately.
  • Keep personal information in "encrypted" folders on your computer. Encryption scrambles the contents of your chosen folder so it cannot be read by anyone else. You can "unscramble" the contents using a password. Many well-known software companies offer free downloads to help you with encryption, or encryption can be an option under your standard operating system.
  • Consider installing "personal firewall" software on your computer to stop online intruders or "hackers" accessing information on your PC.

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