Private eye warns about information we throw away in the trash - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Private eye warns about information we throw away in the trash


What's in your trash? If you are not careful you could be throwing away your identity and privacy.

WTOC has been exploring the topic in our Special Assignment: Public Privacy and the mistakes we make by handing over valuable information to thieves. 

Bank account statements and blank checks. Those are two of the big ones but there is so much more we toss in the trash which not only screams 'Identity thief, come and get it' but other types of trash which basically tells them 'Come into my house!'

Shredding important documents is something we should do.

People WTOC quizzed claimed that's exactly what they do.

"You shred the paper," Kevia Shanteloo said.

"I got a shredder and I shred most of my stuff," Clint Leibel told WTOC.

"Before, I used to rip it up. Now, I shred everything," Wanda McDonald said.

"Sometimes, I don't think about it and toss something in the garbage can," Ron Palefsky told WTOC.

Palefsky should know better. "If I'm not careful, I could be a victim too." 

Palefsky is a private investigator with the Aaron Frederick Agency in Savannah. When he's digging for information for clients, he sees the mistakes we make with our trash daily.

"There are just so many things we throw away in the trash. It can be an old insurance form. It could be an old bank statement. They just don't think there is any valuable information to get off of it," Palefsky said. "Prescription drug bags. They have names, date of birth and doctor. Sometimes you get social security numbers off that information."

You know all those credit card offers we don't want? A thief would gladly dig into your trash to open it for you. In the wrong hands, it could do some real damage. Same goes for those pesky receipts in your pocket.

"There is a lot of info on receipts we don't bother to look at. You just crumble up and throw away," Palefsky said. "Sitting outside a bank and watching people throw things away; I could come up with identities, on any given day, of half a dozen people."

Save them and shred those receipts. Our private eye and computer expert, Digital Doc of Savannah's Brian Hodge, both say Christmas time for us is also Christmas for thieves who may go dumpster diving or peek at what you got for Christmas online.

"You wouldn't leave the huge boxes for a new TV or computer in your front yard and when you plaster Facebook with all the new stuff you bought and say you are leaving town, you are asking for somebody up to no good to check that out," Hodge said.

"They think no one is going to go through my trash. A lot of times you'll see the shipping labels are still on the boxes. A lot of information can come from that. You can tell a person's lifestyle, how many people live there, if they have children," Palefsky said. "If it works for us private eyes, it works for the everyday crook who knows people throw away very valuable information." 

Here's a rule of thumb. If in doubt, shred it. There are a few things you should always shred.

-old tax returns

-bank statements

-credit card offers

-canceled checks

-convenience checks

If any of those items fall into the wrong hands, someone can open an account in your name. 

Tomorrow night, our Public Privacy series checks into those health apps you get for your phone and just how easy they can be hacked.

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