The annual Macy’s Thanksgiving parade in New York City is a much anticipated event both by people who attend the event and those watching on television. This year, however, there was another group of people who thoroughly enjoyed the parade – identity thieves. Mixed among the regular confetti showered down upon New York City also were horizontally shredded documents of the Nassau County Police Department. Contained and visible in these shredded documents, even after shredding, were incident records that identified undercover police officers, names, phone numbers, addresses, Social Security numbers and bank account numbers. The Nassau County Police Department has been considering using cross cut shredders instead of horizontal shredders, but has not done so yet. The information contained in the records dumped on the city is putting many people in serious jeopardy of identity theft.
As I have repeatedly said, you are only as secure as the least secure place that holds your personal information and when, as here, your personal information is literally dumped on the public, you are in serious danger of identity theft. The lesson here is two fold. First, all public agencies should use cross cut shredders which will effectively render the shredded records useless to an identity thief. Many instances of identity theft can be traced back to dumpster diving by identity thieves who go through the trash of public agencies that do not properly shred their documents. The second lesson is to all of us as individuals. We should also be using cross shredders as well. Horizontal or vertical cut shredders just do not provide proper security. Keep your trash from becoming an identity thief’s treasure.