Garbage-sifting shady character

Has anyone had problems with people opening up garbage and looking for personal information? I have an apartment in a 20-story building, and there is a guy who, every day, walks up and down the steps going through each and every trash bin. I’ve only actually caught him with his hand in the trash once, but I see him taking the stairs and moving very quietly every day.

I realize I should have confronted him before, but I figured the paper shredder we bought would be enough to take care of this. Now I’m in the States and the wife is in the apartment and she catches him hiding in the stairwell (after hearing him) and asks him what he’s doing. He angrily replied that he was getting exercise instead of taking the elevator. Then just tonight I get a phone call at (my) 5am from my wife saying that she heard someone sifting through the trash near the elevator, and that she quickly opened the apartment door and she heard footsteps fleeing down the stairs.

I told her to phone down to the doorman, which she did. Not surprisingly, he couldn’t give a rat’s ass. Any advice? Any idea what he’s looking for? When I come home in May, I’m thinking a very sudden, violent confrontation with him will be enough to scare him into stopping this. Any other ideas?

He may not be looking for personal information. He may be hungry. Or perhaps he’s looking for cans or something he can resell.

It sounds to me that you have a more serious problem with your doorman.

This guy owns an apartment in the building, and also one in a building around the corner. He doesn’t work, always walking between the two buildings. He carries the same small paper bag around with him -just small enough to look inconspicuos but big enough to put papers into. If he was recycling or garbage-picking for re-usable items, I would’ve seen him carrying stuff (lived there for 3 years). Never. Just walking the steps, looking in garbage cans, carrying a small bag, always the same one. Doorman is definately a loser.

I would ask the neighbors if they are aware of the man’s activities and to elaborate more on the man’s background…I’m sure somebody in the building also noticed he was going through the trash…if you still think he is weird, you could just knock on the door of his apartment directly (but I would tell your wife to knock on it with a friend or the doorman)…and see if any of his family members would offer an explanation…

I am guessing the guy is mentally ill in some way…so everybody more or less just ignores him and let’s him do as he pleases…if it bothers you that much, I would suggest getting a video camera, record him in the act, and take it to the police…

Make sure not to throw away anything he can blackmail you with or steal information with and ignore him.


Just burn or destroy your “valuable” trash to the point of FUBAR. Then you have nothing to worry about.

I don’t see that you have any cause for concern. If you already shred all your sensitive papers then I don’t see how you could suffer any harm from his looking through or taking anything from your garbage.

If doing what he does makes the fellow happy or brings him any kind of benefit, then all well and good. It wouldn’t bother me at all.

The cause for concern is that this man is possibly a fraud thief. The “protect your OWN ass,” advice is a worrying piece of advice if that is all that is given. It is akin to, “Look someone is robbing that man, thank the Lord it isn’t me. Move along.” To mis-quote Comrade Stalin, ‘You just understand Chinese culture.’

I would do the following:

  1. Shred any documents.
  2. Speak to the door-man again about your suspicions and ask what he is going to do about it.
  3. If he won’t do anything, ask if you can put up signs to notify others that they too should always destroy their documents properly to prevent this kind of crime. Don’t mention the name of the guy you suspect, just say that this kind of fraud is happening every day, and that we should all do our best to protect ourselves.
  4. Wipe a load of dog crap on your shreded documents. Then put them in the bin.

I have often seen people going through the trash here, and regard it as acceptable behaviour. I believe that these people are trying to earn a few extra quid by recycling. In my book that is ok. If you suspect that this person is only after ‘bank info’ etc to commit fraud then this is more serious, and if this is the case the ‘protect your own ass only’ attitude is sloppy.

If you really think this guy is a fraudster and that he is taking documents and using them to fraudulently to obtain money… well, I’d get legal advice beofre I went ahead and did anything. I have no idea if going to the police would be helpful or not. Who knows?

Thanks to everyone for the advice. It settled my nerves some.