It’s garbage collection night and you had just put your trash cans out by the curb. You’re about to retire for the evening when you hear a disturbance coming from outside. As you peer out the window, you see a shadowy figure rummaging through your trash cans. Your heart races as you watch the intruder move around in the darkness. You look closer for a few more moments as you try to make out what the figure is. Suddenly, it dawns on you that this person is your new neighbor from across the street!
There are a few privacy risks to consider if your neighbor is going through your trash. They could be looking for evidence of a crime, medications, or trying to get information about you or your family. If any of these items are found in your trash, it could lead to serious consequences.
What would you do if you found yourself in this situation?
It can be concerning when you see your neighbor going through your trash. You may be worried about their motives, or whether they’re looking for something specific. This article will help answer some of those questions and provide some tips on how to prevent this from happening in the future.
Why is your neighbor going through your trash?
It is important to understand why your neighbor may be going through your trash, or dumpster diving, as there could be several reasons for their behavior. Dumpster diving is a term used to describe the act of rummaging through someone else’s trash to find food or other items that can be reused or recycled.
Here are some reasons why your neighbor may be going through your trash in increasing order of concern:
1. They may be looking for something they can sell.
One reason your neighbor might go through your trash is to look for something they can sell. They may be looking for valuable items such as electronics, jewelry, or even clothing. For some, this may be a nuisance, but for others, this may seem like harmless behavior that may indicate your neighbor may be going through some hardship.
2. They may be looking for food or other items that can be reused or recycled.
If your neighbor is going through your trash to look for food, it could be because they are struggling to make ends meet. This type of behavior is more common than you might think, as many people are forced to resort to dumpster diving to find food or other items that can be reused. This is particularly true during tough economic times.
3. They may be looking for evidence of a crime.
In some cases, your neighbor may be going through your trash because they suspect you have committed a crime. This could be anything from drug use to fraud. Did they mistakenly think you were disposing of evidence? Or, are they simply trying to snoop around and see what you’re up to?
4. They may be looking for evidence of medications in your house.
Another reason your neighbor might go through your trash is to look for evidence of medications in your house. This may be a sign of a nosy neighbor but may be particularly concerning if you suspect your neighbor has a drug addiction.
According to a 2020 special report by the U.S Department of Justice, more than a third of state prisoners or jail inmates held for property offenses committed their crime to get access to drugs or money for drugs. In another study by the Forum on Corrections Research, 19% of inmates incarcerated for various crimes admitted to consuming drugs every day or almost every day in the 6 months before their arrest, and 25-30% indicated they had consumed illicit drugs on the day they committed an offense of break and entry, theft or robbery.
Your neighbor may be watching you and can easily learn your habits. Once they’ve confirmed you may have medications like narcotics in your house that they can use or sell on the street, they could wait for a time you are likely to not be home and break in to look for more.
If you’re worried your neighbor might be watching you, you can read this article we wrote about 13 signs that your neighbor may be spying on you and tips for how to deal with them.
5. They may be trying to get information about you or your family.
Your neighbor could also be going through your trash to try and get information about you or your family. This could be for any number of reasons. In some cases, this could be a serious privacy concern, as they could be trying to find out information that they could use to harm you or your family.
Is There Any Privacy Risk if Your Neighbor Is Going Through Your Trash?
There is always a risk to your privacy when someone scours through your trash as this could be a source of personal information theft. They may be able to find personal information such as your name, address, phone number, and if you’re careless enough your social security number (or social insurance number if you live in Canada).
They may also be able to find financial information, such as credit card statements or bank statements. In some cases, they may even be able to find sensitive information, such as medical records, love letters, or sexual paraphernalia.
Personal information theft could lead to identity theft or fraud, as well as other crimes.
Identity theft is a serious crime that can have devastating consequences for the victim. Personal information, such as your name, address, phone number, and social security number (or social insurance number), can be used by the thief to apply for a new credit card or take out loans in your name.
They may also be able to use your information to commit other crimes, such as tax fraud, rental fraud, or setup services with utility companies under your name. The thief could even file for bankruptcy in your name, ruining your credit score and resulting in a host of other financial problems. Lastly, they could use any sensitive information about you or your family to blackmail you or exploit you in some way.
It’s important to be aware of this potential risk and take steps to protect your privacy. The best way to protect yourself against identity theft is to keep your personal information confidential. Don’t share it with anyone who doesn’t need it and be sure to shred any documents that contain sensitive information before throwing them away.
Is It Legal for Your Neighbor to Go Through Your Trash?
This is a tough question to answer. In short, if your trash is out on the curb or placed at or near your property line at a location intended for disposal or garbage collection, then it is considered abandoned, and it’s likely your neighbor (or anyone) is within their legal rights to go through it.
On the other hand, if your trash cans are located on your property, inside a shed or garage, or even left outside but right beside your house, then it’s still considered private property and not in the public domain. It would be considered trespassing if your neighbor went through your trash in this case.
If you’re still not sure, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and assume that your trash is not private once it’s been put out for garbage collection.
Is It Illegal to Take Stuff Out of a Dumpster (Is Dumpster Diving Illegal)?
In general, in most jurisdictions, dumpster diving is not illegal and it’s not illegal to take things out of a dumpster as long as the dumpster is located on public property. However, if the dumpster is located on private property, then it would be considered trespassing if you went through it without the owner’s permission. If in doubt, always refer back to your local bylaws and ordinances.
How to Prevent Your Neighbor From Going Through Your Trash?
If you’re concerned about your privacy, there are a few things you can do to prevent your neighbor from going through your trash.
1. Get a locking lid for your trash can.
If you have a locking lid on your trash can, this will prevent your neighbor from going through your trash. A locking lid consists of a heavy-duty bungee cord that is looped around the lid and the handles of the trash can and can be tightened to secure the lid in place.
The other major benefit of having a locking lid on your trash can is that it will keep animals out. If you live in a rural area, you may have to deal with animals like raccoons or squirrels getting into your trash. A locking lid can prevent them from getting in and making a mess.
While this may be an effective solution for animals, it may not be practical. A neighbor or stranger who’s determined to get into your trash can could easily undo the lid or cut it. To avoid that, you could get a wire trash can lock which would make it much more difficult for someone to get into your trash.
On the other hand, while this option may have some success in deterring your neighbor, garbage collectors may have difficulty emptying your trash can if it’s locked. This could result in your garbage not being collected and you may end up with a fine.
2. Put your trash can in a locked garage or shed.
Putting your trash can in a locked garage or shed is another option to consider. This will make it much more difficult for your neighbor or any garbage scavengers to go through your trash as they would need to gain access to your garage or shed.
A garage or shed, particularly if they’re located on your property, is considered private property. As such, your neighbor would be trespassing if they went into your garage or shed without your permission.
Keeping your trash can inside may not be an option for everyone. If you live in an apartment or don’t have a garage or shed, or if your shed is located off your property, this option won’t work for you.
3. Change your habits around taking out your trash.
If you’re really worried about your neighbor going through your trash, you could change your habits around taking out your trash.
One option is to bring your trash to the dumpster yourself. This way, you’ll know that your trash is safely out of their reach. This option may not be the most convenient particularly if you don’t have a car or if the dumpster is located too far away.
Another option is to take your trash out early in the morning on garbage day instead of putting it out on the curb the night before. You will need to know the garbage schedule in your area for this to work. Keep in mind, your neighbor may still be able to get to your trash if they’re up early, but it’s less likely.
4. Set up a camera with floodlight and motion detection.
If you’ve noticed that your neighbor only goes through your trash when it’s dark, you could set up a camera with floodlight and motion detection. With this setup, once the camera detects movement, it will turn on the floodlight and start recording.
The light alone may be enough to deter your neighbor. However, if they’re determined to get into your trash can, the footage can be useful if you need to take legal action against your neighbor, particularly if they are trespassing onto your property to access your garbage can.
This option may be a little costly and it’s important to consider whether it’s legal in your state or country to record someone without their knowledge.
5. Talk to your neighbor and explain your concerns.
If you want to try and resolve the issue without taking any drastic measures, you could talk to your neighbor and explain your concerns and try to understand why they’re going through your trash.
Here are some tips on how to approach the conversation:
– Choose a time when there are no other people around to avoid embarrassing your neighbor but ensure that someone else is home in case things get heated.
– Be polite and calm. Starting the conversation on a hostile note is likely to make your neighbor defensive and less likely to listen to what you have to say.
– Explain your concerns without accusing them of anything. For example, “I noticed that you’ve been going through my trash cans and I’m just wondering why that is.”
– Listen to what they have to say. There may be a perfectly innocent explanation for their behavior. Look for any indication that they may be needing any help or support. Your neighbor may be going through a difficult time and can’t afford food or may be looking for items they can resell to make some money. This may provide an opportunity to help them out without them feeling like they’re asking for help.
– If they don’t give you a satisfactory explanation you could explain that it’s making you feel uncomfortable and that you’re concerned about your privacy and ask them to stop going through your trash.
What if Your Neighbor Won’t Stop Going Through Your Trash?
If you’ve tried all these options and your neighbor continues to go through your trash, you need to take more steps to protect your privacy. It’s important to keep your personal and financial information safe at all times and not throw out any documents in the trash that have any personally identifiable information because you never know who might see it.
If you need to get rid of any documents with personal information such as bills, bank statements, tax documents, or medical reports, shred them first. You can invest as little as $35 to as much as $300 on a home office shredder depending on your needs and budget.
If you’re not ready to invest in a shredder, then another affordable tool to help protect your identity is a confidential roller stamp. For as little as $10, this gadget can be used to obscure any personal information on documents making it eligible before throwing it out. This will make it much more difficult for someone to steal your information.
If you’re keeping documents with personal information, it’s always a good idea to keep them in a locked cabinet or safe. This way, even if anyone gains access to your home or office, they won’t have access to any sensitive information.
The last option to consider is to take legal action. You should speak to a lawyer or paralegal in your area to find out what your options are. If you plan on taking this route, it may be useful to keep a log of the times you’ve seen your neighbor going through your trash as well as any other evidence you may have, including footage from a security camera if you have one installed.
Learning that your neighbor, or anyone for that matter, has been going through your trash can be a daunting experience. You may feel like your privacy has been violated and you’re not sure how to protect yourself. However, by following the tips above, you can put an end to this invasion of privacy and get peace of mind.