Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Low Level Information Collection

This morning as my wife was leaving for work she noticed a extended cab pickup truck parked out in front of our neighbor's house. As she began to pull out of the driveway she noted that the driver got out and was beginning to go through the neighbors trash. My wife parked at the end of the street and then called me. I dismissed it at first but as I observed for a few moments I was amazed at how thoroughly this gentleman was going through each bag. His urgency and purpose was like he was looking for a lost wedding ring.

Needing something to do today I walked up to him and inquired about what he was doing. Obviously and physically taken aback by me confronting him, he produced a toy out of his pocket and told me he "wasn't doing anything" that he was just looking for toys and gave me a sheepish grin. My kids do a much better job of acting.

Given the nature of the truck (at 50K+ it was probably either his employer's or stolen), the fact their was no car seat was in it, his "look-out", and his overall demeanor I pressed a little harder. I asked him about the pile of papers he was so carefully gathering. Of course all of the sudden his knowledge of the english language ceased to exist and he was in a hurry to leave. In spanish he yelled to his wife to get ready to go and that he didn't like the situation. So I switched to spanish and surprised him even further. I was able to retrieve the papers from him before he ran into his truck that his wife was starting to drive away in. Damn, I was just starting to have fun with him, well at least the cops should be able to retrieve the stolen truck pretty quickly.

I'm fully cognizant of the fact that financially times are hard right now and people need to do what they can to survive. I'm not against him looking for toys or taking broken household equipment to repair or any number of other things that people quickly retrieve from others discarded household items. I'm very leery of how organized and thorough this team was. 1. The vehicle fit into it surroundings, except we live on a cul-de-sac with very low traffic. 2. He had an obvious "look-out" who was intently watching my wife 3. He dissected every bag, quickly and efficiently 4. Timing - he hit the garbage in the two hour window it sits outside.

Yes I'm probably paranoid but I can almost guarantee that this team worked as part of a larger organization paid by the pound of paper they collect or otherwise compensated for what they found. It's highly lucrative, insulates upper layers and incredibly simple to execute. It could have been a precursor to a physical intrusion, but honestly that's not going to nearly as lucrative as the identify theft angle.


1. Be aware of your surroundings. If it seems out of place - find out why. At a minimum observe and report to your local police department.

2. Shred everything, no matter how "insignificant" it is. If I'm honest with myself 've been horrible about this at home. I have a shredder two feet from me that is going to be fed well today!

3. Carefully screen who you let in your home. Technicians, Cleaners, Painters. There are so many ways to extend this type of collection activity it isn't even funny.

4. Talk with your neighbors. It's much easier if everyone is fully aware of what is going on and can help observe and act as necessary. You can also get trusted recommendations for service help. Plus the holidays are coming - just go out and be nice.

5. Check your credit report from all three major players every month. The odds are that your identity or at a minimum your credit/bank account will be compromised at least once. The quicker you can identify it the easier the mess is to clean up.

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