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Your Financial 'Trash' Can Be Treasure to Thieves

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DURHAM — It has been said that "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." But when it comes to money, when thieves try to pass themselves off as you, that is fraud -- and a headache.

Your bank account, credit cards and even your driving record could be in danger because of the way you dispose of your trash.

Jeff Parker had an expensive lesson about how valuable garbage is to criminals.

"Someone went in claiming to be me with a check from someone else's bank, bringing two forgeries into the picture, and drew a thousand dollars out of my bank account," Parker says.

Parker's signature does not look anything like what appeared on one of his checks, but it was enough for someone to take money out of his bank account.

"You know, any of my bank statements could have been enough information," he says.

Parker believes someone took his bank statement out of his trash.

It's a practice that has been dubbed "dumpster diving."

Jay Wayne Love of Central Carolina Bank in Durham specializes in document security and he advises that everyone take a special step before tossing sensitive documents into the wastepaper basket.

"Before you throw those out, be sure they are properly shredded," he advises.

"At least, tear them up into pieces beyond recognition," he says.

Love says bank documents are not the only thing that should be unrecognizable.

Anything with a name, address, social security number, telephone number or other important information should be shredded.

"Anything of that nature that could allow a person to use that to actually take over an individual's identity should be protected," he advises.

Take care as well when you put your garbage at the curb because it can be a free invitation for anybody to go through that trash. People are wiser to hold up on putting the garbage out until the morning the garbage trucks roll down the street.

Parker will get his money back -- after his bank processes the forgery claim.

"When I get my thousand dollars back, I am going to buy one of those waste basket shredders," Parker says.

Other sensitive documents to be dispose of with care include old tax records such as W-2s, pre-approved credit card applications and utility bills.

If you find someone has taken your personal records, notify your bank, the DMV and credit bureaus immediately.