Securely Shredding Documents Remains One of the Best Tools Against ID Theft
With so much focus on protecting your identity online, are you taking the necessary steps to protect your private information on paper? Identity thieves continue to target people by going after their tangible material in order to steal personal information (e.g. name, birth date, address, Social Security number, email address, passwords, and account numbers). They use this information to piece together stolen identities or create new ones in order to commit crimes such as withdrawing money, getting a credit card or loan, opening a utility account, stealing tax refunds, and receiving medical care.
Here are 10 items you should always securely shred and dispose of:
- Old bank documents. Any bank documents or cancelled checks more than 7 years old should be securely destroyed, as should old deposit and ATM receipts. Ask your bank how long they retain financial records. If it is less than 7 years (the time required for tax-related information), keep hard copies in case you ever need them, otherwise, every document you hold onto is at risk.
- Old tax records. Cross reference your document dates with your state laws to see if the statute of limitations is past – destroy records past that date.
- Unnecessary receipts and bills. Paid credit card or utility bills should be securely destroyed, as well as sales receipts and medical receipts unless related to warranties, taxes or insurance.
- Expired policies. Home and car insurance policies contain a lot of confidential information. Once the insured period is over or the policy is no longer in effect, these documents should be securely destroyed.
- Junk mail. Personal data is often included in marketing materials (e.g. pre-approved credit card applications). Never put junk mail into the garbage or recycling bin.
- Shipping labels. Purchases delivered to a home or office contain labels that often include confidential information such as address, tracking codes and account numbers. Remove these for shredding before boxes or packages are broken down and recycled.
- Photos. Photos of friends and family that you don’t want any more should be securely shredded instead of tossed into the garbage. They could be used on to create a fake ID.
- Post-it notes. Many people record passwords and account numbers on Post-it notes – these should be securely destroyed.
- Duplicates. Most people don’t need to keep more than one copy of anything, and electronic records can take the place of paper in most cases.
- Old travel documents. Boarding passes contain contact information and even frequent flyer account numbers, and should be destroyed after every trip.