Throwing your life awayNow that you’ve filed your 2012 taxes, it’s time to put away those sensitive documents. Some go into a shoebox, a filing cabinet or a safe-deposit box. Others go into a public trash bin. One man’s H&R Block income tax return documents, his Progressive insurance card and motor vehicle registration card were recovered from the garbage at Carlos Car Wash and Laundromat.
By: Crystal Dey, Alexandria Echo Press
Now that you’ve filed your 2012 taxes, it’s time to put away those sensitive documents. Some go into a shoebox, a filing cabinet or a safe-deposit box. Others go into a public trash bin.
One man’s H&R Block income tax return documents, his Progressive insurance card and motor vehicle registration card were recovered from the garbage at Carlos Car Wash and Laundromat. Other days it’s bank statements, phone records and hospital bills – all complete with names, addresses and account numbers.
“People are always complaining that people are stealing their identity,” said Greg Dropik, co-owner of Carlos Car Wash and Laundromat. “They’re giving it away.”
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimated that more than eight million Americans are victims of identity theft each year. Over the past decade, identity theft crimes have risen more than 578 percent, according to the Attorney General’s office.
Still, every week when Dropik maintains his property, he finds exactly what criminals need to ruin an innocent person’s life.
“I have no obligation to take care of their garbage,” Dropik said. But he disposes of it and the business foots the bill.
Dropik has called people who have left their phone numbers behind as evidence. “They’re not too happy usually,” he said.
Not only is dumping of private information putting people in jeopardy, it’s illegal. Minnesota Statute 609.68 prohibits unlawful deposit of garbage. Anyone caught leaving garbage on public or private land without the consent of the owner is guilty of a petty misdemeanor.
Signs on the cans at Carlos Car Wash and Laundromat read “No Household Garbage” and Dropik has downsized his trash receptacles as a deterrent. He’s also considered installing cameras.
“Yeah, I get tired of the garbage, but it’s more about the personal information out there,” Dropik said.
PROTECT YOUR IDENTITY
Minnesotans can protect themselves from identity theft by placing a freeze on their credit report. The Minnesota Identity Theft Freeze Law aids in new account fraud prevention.
Freezes give individuals control over when, to whom and for how long their credit report is accessible and is free to victims of identity theft.
If you discover that your accounts have been compromised, place a fraud alert on your credit report with each of the credit reporting agencies. Close any accounts that have been accessed, immediately, and report the theft to the FTC. Bring a copy of your FTC complaint form to your local police department and file a report.
The penalties for identity theft crimes range from a fine of $1,000 or 90 days imprisonment for a misdemeanor, to a fine of $100,000 and 20 years imprisonment for felony charges.