One day last summer, a Metropolitan Police strike force burst through a door in a downtown office building searching for money-launderers. What they found instead, in a vacant conference room, astounded them.
Around a large table were comfortable chairs. Before each chair were documents – some wrinkled and coffee-stained, others looking fresh-off-the-printer. One chair faced legal documents, another a stack of accounting reports. A third confronted piles of engineering documents, blueprints, and memos. A fourth stood before insurance and personnel documents, salary tables. Before the fifth chair were a series of reports on real estate transactions, all marked “Strictly confidential,” and at the next chair were budget projections and cash-flow forecasts.
Around the perimeter of this room, in place of chairs for observers, were garbage bags filled with documents not yet sorted. This was an enterprise founded on waste paper – paper from various large metropolitan offices and businesses. The paper they discarded was being collected from waste bins and carried here. Then it was sorted by subject and set before experts on such topics, who decided its significance and value. And then, no doubt, it was sold to firms and people who should not have it.
What the raiders had discovered was the raw material of industrial espionage. One of the police officers in the room, as he realized what was being done here, captured the process in a phrase: “Dumpster Divers!”
A few months later, on the other side of the continent, a law enforcement agency in California received information that led to the arrest of nine people ho were harvesting, from dumpsters behind service stations, journal tapes that had recorded cash and credit transactions. These tapes contained credit card account numbers that the Dumpster Divers then transferred to magnetic strips on counterfeit credit cards.
With these, large amounts of gasoline were purchased at customer-activated terminals, some by dealers who were stealing gasoline from their competitors. The thieves drove vans with specially-built containers from which large volumes of stolen gasoline could be pumped into their own underground service-station tanks.