This question is prompted by How to Safely Destroy a Large Quantity of Valid Blank Checks.

For decades, I've put torn up confidential financial information into the garbage (not the recyclable trash), tightly tying up the garbage bag and throwing it into the garbage truck at my local weekly garbage collection site. I cannot imagine anyone pawing through volumes of smelly garbage bags in search of treasure. Maybe passing a metal detector over the garbage, but not a hands-on search. However, as the linked question demonstrates, some people are unhappy with this method of disposing of old, but still potentially mis-usable, financial papers.

Of course, merely crumpling up such papers and dropping them into an open, public trash can is inadvisable.

Is there any information on how often valuable paper is taken from garbage disposal sites, and subsequently used fraudulently? For example: "I never authorized this transaction, but I did mistakenly throw away a list with all my pass codes." If so, please summarize.

Addendum because Comments There must be some data on fraudulent transactions, with, possibly, information on how they occurred.

  • 1
    If you stole paper containing valuable personal information from garbage trucks, dumpsters, garbage dumps, or other garbage disposal sites for nefarious purposes, would you register with a database so that you could be tracked statistically??? Commented Jun 6, 2019 at 16:48
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    Sleep better. Buy a shredder. Commented Jun 6, 2019 at 17:33
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    @Bob Baerker Obviously no. Reductio ad Absurdum is often helpful, but flipness is rarely helpful. There must be data on discovered fraud, and possibly this includes info on how the fraud occurred.
    – ab2
    Commented Jun 6, 2019 at 18:02
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    I do that same as you. For anyone sophisticated enough to take advantage of such confidential information, there are many easier ways of getting it (e.g., hacking, phishing) than going through disgusting trash.
    – minou
    Commented Jun 6, 2019 at 18:30
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    Or, if you're not sophisticated enough to steal a database and still want people's info, just walk down any rural street in America, where the mailboxes are outside and unprotected, and sort through all those important documents before your targets have opened and disposed of them.
    – dwizum
    Commented Jun 6, 2019 at 18:46

2 Answers 2



The data you seek contain so much information that no one would be willing to share that it's impossible to collect the data.

You would have to know how many people actually do throw away sensitive information and how. You would have to know how many fraudulent transactions actually occur (even this data is impossible to get because banks are fairly stingy with the data they have). You would have to know how many of those fraudulent transactions are actually a result of information gathered from thrown away sensitive information. This is not only impossible to get it's impossible to gather. You would have to investigate every single transaction that someone flagged. This just doesn't happen. For the bank it would be cheaper to get stuck with a $200 fraud payout than having to investigate a $200 fraud.

Also it's far more likely that a trojan on your computer gathered enough information to make a transfer than that someone went through your trash. The result of those 2 options look exactly the same. The only way to figure out which one it was is to find the person responsible and asking a question (and hoping he's honest).


There are not statistics on random ID or financial theft through trash loss. There are stories about thieves grabbing credit card offers from the mail and sending them in (I'm not sure any of these are verified). However, it is a known way for police investigators to gather evidence by collecting your trash and sifting through it. A targeted attack on you by an ex, jealous neighbor or fan (depending on your fame level) could be done this way as well. It's just easy, low hanging fruit to help secure your information by secure shedding potentially useful document.

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