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Saturday, 9 March, 2002, 23:51 GMT
Bin raiding: The growing scourge
Rubbish outside a London flat
The affluent are more likely to be targeted

Consumers are placing themselves at considerable risk from identify theft and credit card fraud, according to a shocking new survey which reveals the potential extent of "bin raiding" by fraudsters in the UK.

Members of the public are being warned to be more vigilant about discarding personal records, such as credit cards, bank statements and utility bills.

Experian, a credit reference agency, commissioned a waste analysis company to examine the contents of 400 domestic bins in Nottingham to show how easy it was for fraudsters to obtain personal information from household rubbish.

They found:

  • 72% of bins contained the full name and full address of at least one member of a household
  • Two in five contained a whole credit or debit card number that could be linked to an individual
  • 80% of these had an associated expiry date
  • One in five bins contained a bank account number and sort code that could be related to an individual's name and address
  • One bin even contained a signed blank cheque
  • Only 8% of households throwing away full card numbers made an attempt to destroy the documents
  • Only 14% contained nothing of interest to fraudsters

Whole debit or credit card numbers where the expiry date is known can easily be used to obtain goods over the internet or on the telephone, known as "card-not-present fraud" (CNP).

More worryingly, detailed biographical information can be used by fraudsters to commit full-scale identity fraud or divert financial information and credit cards to another address.

In the US, the practice which is known there as "dumpster diving" has been identified as a real risk to consumers and businesses for many years.

But out of 71 local authorities in the UK, interviewed by Experian, 80% said that bin raiding was a growing problem.

Worrying trend

Credit card fraud has risen dramatically over the last few years.

According to the Association for Payment Clearing Services (APACS), card fraud cost the UK 292.6m in 2000 - an increase of 55% on 1999's figure of 188.4m.

Some types of fraud, such as card-not-present fraud, is estimated to now cost consumers 100m a year.

Credit cards
Con artists use the information to order credit cards
"False identity fraud" occurs when someone uses stolen information to write to a bank asking them to direct all the genuine account holder's financial information - including new credit cards - to a bogus address.

It is the fastest growing fraud in the UK.

According to the Credit Information Fraud Avoidance System(CIFAS), it has risen from 20,000 records in 1999 to 53,000 in 2001 - an increase of 165%.

Growing risk

A spokesman for Experian said that he was staggered by the research's findings and hoped it would draw attention to the risks - and alert people to the danger of bin raiding.

One bin contained a signed blank cheque, while another contained an unused cheque book.

From another bin, information was found about an individual's full name, address, date of birth, bank account number, sort code employment details and medical information.

Local authority survey
53 out of 71 (74.6%)local authorities say that bin raiding occurs in their local authority area
57 out of 71 (80%) said that bin raiding was a growing problem in recent times
44 out of 71 (62%) said that a key target was obtaining credit card slips
53 out of 71 (76%) said that toys and other everyday items were raided from bins
They had also thrown away a whole benefit book, utility bills and other official letters that might be used to corroborate identify.

Significant information about this person was contained in a completed passport application.

More affluent groups were also significantly more likely to discard items of use to fraudsters.

In more well-heeled areas, which bin divers are more likely to target, the chances of success for fraudsters increased to two in every five bins.

Research methods

In the week beginning 28 January 2002, Experian commissioned MEL Research, an independent waste analysts company, to analyse the contents of waste bins from selected households in five different areas of Nottingham.

Experian said that the individual privacy of consumers was protected throughout the exercise and the names of any individuals were not revealed or disclosed in the process.

The company incinerated all gathered confidential material relating to individuals, and a certificate of safe destruction was obtained.

See also:

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