Your trash is fair game for anyone who wants it


Are you shredding all of your personal information before you put it in your trash? If not you are an identity thief’s dream. Do your realize that it is absolutely legal to go through someone’s trash? That’s right anything in your garbage is fair game once it is put out for collection.


Police will root through your trash to find evidence of wrongdoing then use that evidence against the individual to secure a warrant.  Private investigators go through people’s trash to find evidence to support claims of their clients and it’s all perfectly legal.  Your garbage is not protected by any implied expectations of privacy.   And identity thieves are perfectly within their legal rights to root through it too!

That little fact became an issue in the case of California vs Greenwood in May of 1988. the court ruled that garbage placed on a public street is readily accessible to children, animals and others. What that means is that an identity thief who roots through your trash and removes documents you have thrown out is not violating any laws at that point. It becomes a crime when he uses the information to commit identity theft.

So the smart person knowing that his garbage is fair game will shred everything to thwart the thief. After all if you are placing a whole document in the trash, it is easy to pick up, fold up and put in a pocket for later use. However if you are putting out shredded material an identity thief must collect it all and then spend hours trying to reconstruct it. There are much easier ways to get information than that.

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