A Scary Story About Document Destruction

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Read this story from one of our customers.

My mother was used to throwing our trash away in the trash cans outside our house, which then got tossed into the ubiquitous garbage dumpster on Monday morning when the trash man came. No one ever thought someone would actually go through the trash cans. It was a nice neighborhood. We weren’t throwing away anything special. And after all, why would she need to destroy anything before throwing it away? We had nothing to hide.

Okay, so maybe you were thinking about shredding your junk mail in 1996, but we weren’t. For it’s worth, I wasn’t even of legal drinking age at the time. Nor was I responsible for taking out the trash. But that’s not the point. The point is that someone went through our trash sometime in the summer of 1996, and wreaked havoc on my family’s credit and good name, not to mention finances.

Yes, it turns out whoever went through our trash was able to piece together enough information about our family to apply for a mortage, have their apartment heated and well-lit, get cable and internet, and go on quite the shopping sprees at both Macy’s and Nordstrom’s. This went on for a year. We didn’t find out until the fall of 1997 when a bill collector called. I answered the phone.

shredding.jpgMe: “Hello, Miller residence.”

Caller: “Yes, we’re looking to speak with Joanna Miller please regarding an important business matter.”

Me: “Sure, may I ask who’s calling please?”

Caller: “CR Solutions.”

Me: “Um, may I ask what this is regarding?”

Caller: “We need to speak with Joanna Miller please, is she available?”

My mother always told me to get a name and reason for the call before passing along any calls to her or anyone in the family, but it was clear this guy wasn’t going to budge. It sounded suspicious and I had a bad feeling in my stomach when I ran upstairs to let my mom know someone was on the line. When my mom came down to take the call, she seemed confused, and a tad bit concerned. The look on her face said “Who could this be?” as she picked up the receiver, and I sat there in the kitchen the entire time, curious to find out just who in the world this suspicious man was and why he was calling for my mother.

Mom: “A Macy’s card? Good lord, what?? I don’t have a Macy’s card. You must have the wrong number.”

Caller: “No, ma’am, we have the right number. And you now owe $2000.00 plus $686.00 in late fees and charges, due immediately.”

Mom: “There’s no way. I don’t have a Macy’s account. Who did you say is calling?”

According to my mom, the mysterious man on the other end of the line then confirmed her social security number, home address, prior address, and maiden name. I watched my mom’s face turn white and she hung up the phone with a dazed look of confusion on her face.

Needless to say, my family’s identity had been stolen. The thieves had managed to gather my mother and father’s social security numbers, along with our address and other key pieces of information about our family from our trash. And we never had a clue until the day we received the call from the collection agency.

My parents wised up, after a little investigation, a review of their credit report, a couple hundred hours, an attorney, and several thousand dollars. The thieves were eventually caught. My parents started using a shredder to destroy anything that contained personally identifiable information before throwing away.

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America. Don’t become a victim. Check your credit report regularly, be careful with whom you share social security and account numbers, and shred ANY documents that contain personal info before tossing them into the trash. If you live in the Houston area, check out Shredding Houston, a Houston-based recycling service that comes to your residence or business and picks up your shredding, at your convenience, and destroys it securely. Find out how Shredding Houston can help protect your identity and good name by taking care of your shredding.

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