The junk mail containing personal information you throw out in your garbage with offers for everything from credit cards to insurance coverage is worth $25 a bag on the streets of Manteca.
Manteca Police Chief Nick Obligacion noted that’s the going rate your tossed mail — junk and otherwise — that contains personal data fetches when scavengers that run the gamut from meth users to the homeless that partake in illegal activities sell to criminals specializing in identity theft.
A proposal aimed at making it illegal to enter or take from residential garbage Toters as well as municipal dumpsters will primarily address growing ID theft crime as well as scavengers — homeless or not —rummaging through garbage cans and dumping the contents on the street in the pre-dawn darkness.
The first reading is at tonight’s 7 o’clock Manteca City Council meeting of an ordinance making it clear that once garbage is placed in designated containers and placed at designated collection sites it is the property of the city and no one else. The exception would be the residential or business customer that places items in their own garbage containers.
Obligacion noted even something that isn’t junk mail — a magazine or a catalog — can be a gold mine for someone intent on committing fraud.
The police chief noted one instance where a card inside a catalog contained an authorization code. The criminal used the authorization code, filled out order forms and had items sent to a different address. The company sent the bill to the person the catalogue was addressed.
When they called to complain they never ordered anything, the company initially refused to reverse the charges forcing the victim to spend a significant amount of time trying to get the issue cleared up.
Obligacion said dealing with credit issues due to identify theft can take weeks to months to clear up and require the victim investing a lot of time.
Even with the rise of Internet fraud and electronic piracy junk mail — as well as people who toss out billing statements and such — is still a major target of identity thefts.
“I shred everything,” Obligacion said.
He uses a cross-cut shredder that typically cuts documents into pieces ranging from 3/8 inch to 1/32 inch wide of varying lengths typically less than a half inch. They are considered medium security with micro-cut shredders — also known as confetti shredders — are the most secure as they finely destroy documents.
The chief advises avoiding strip shredders considered the least secure of all.
He noted that it is laborious but documents shredded into long strips can be reassembled like a puzzle to glean critical identify information.
“It takes a lot of time but these people (criminal\ ID thieves) have a lot of time on their hands,” Obligacion said.
The city also offers two free Shred-It events each year for residents to bring boxes of documents for shredding.
Manteca is field testing lockable Toters for recycling. If they prove effective the city will slowly phase in blue lockable recycling Toters and possibly do the same for brown garbage Toters.
Such a move would further reduce the potential for ID theft.