People who routinely shred their old paperwork know that aside from the obvious benefit of “decluttering,” it’s also a good way to protect yourself from identity theft.
Fraudsters are constantly inventing new ways to seize your personal information. Your old bills, financial documents—even credit card offers—are just the sort of things they want to get their hands on. And they’ll go to great lengths to get to your paperwork—including digging through your trash or “dumpster diving” once your trash arrives at the dump or landfill.
Can’t I just tear it up and throw it in the trash or recycle bin?
Experts warn that the only documents that are safe to throw away are those which contain no personal information whatsoever, such as a grocery or coffee shop receipt. For others, the only way to be totally certain that you are safe is the total destruction of those documents once you’re done with them.
Some people keep a separate bin or bag in the kitchen (because isn’t that where all mail tends to live or die?) to collect shredables.
Which documents to shred?
The general rule is to ALWAYS shred anything that has account numbers, birth dates, maiden names, passwords, PINs, signatures or your Social Security Number. For example:
- Legal documents
- Credit reports
- Expired passports/visas and driver’s licenses
- Medical and dental records
- Pre-approved credit card or loan applications
- Receipts with credit/debit card numbers
- Travel itineraries
- Used airline tickets
- Utility bills
- Child or school related mail—Your child’s Social Security number can be stolen too!
If you have a shredder, use it. If not, many local organizations, including Tower, offer free shred days where you can bring your papers and have them shredded securely and gone forever. (See sidebar for our upcoming shred event.)
What documents should I keep & for how long?
For a list of recommendations, click here.
Resources: Marketpro; Thebalance.com; USA.gov