People in Hartlepool have been urged to guard against identity theft – after a spate of bin-raiding incidents.
Concerns have been raised that organised attempts to obtain personal and financial details are being made in the town.
The problem may be spreading throughout the townHelen Beaman
There have been particular issues around the marina and Fens areas.
Hartlepool Borough Council waste and environmental services team leader Helen Beaman said: “In recent weeks, communal bins in parts of the marina have been targeted and we have also had reports from our refuse crews of similar incidents occurring in the Fens area, suggesting that the problem may be spreading throughout the town.
“Aside from the obvious security issues, this is also causing a significant environmental problem as the bin raiders leave behind a lot of mess after emptying bins out onto the street in their search for information.”
The council’s community safety and waste and environmental services teams have joined forces to try to tackle the issue under the banner of the Safer Hartlepool Partnership.
The community safety team has issues security advice to homeowners.
They say that all letters and documents which contain sensitive information should be shredded once they are no longer needed.
If that personal information falls into the wrong hands, there could be big consequences.
Victim Services officer Lorna Hilton said: “Criminals who manage to get hold of your personal details can use them to open bank accounts and get credit cards, loans, state benefits and documents such as passports and driving licences in your name.
“If your identity is stolen you may have difficulty getting loans, credit cards or a mortgage until the matter is sorted out and that could take some time.
“I would urge people to ensure that they never put any sensitive letters or documents in the bin that could be retrieved at a later date and used for illegal purposes.”
Aside from paper documents, residents are also being advised to take a range of other measures to avoid becoming victims of identity theft.
These include securing all computers, laptops and mobile devices.
People are also being urged to only use secure sites – where a ‘lock’ icon should be visible – when shopping online.
Email scams are also a big issue, according to the council, who advise people not to reply to messages, click links or open attachments from companies or others asking for personal information.