Eleven million people a year and 54 billion dollars. That’s the hit that identity theft puts on us. And it’s mostly avoidable. How? Well, you can toss your personal and financial information in the trash and hope no one digs through it, or you can shred. But why take the chance? Thieves think nothing of rummaging through trash looking for valuable information. When they find yours, they’ll have everything they need to live their life on your dime. Shred and you cut them out of the picture. And you stay out of that statistic.
It only takes a few minutes a day to sort your discards. Set aside the documentation you should not shred such as recent tax information, and shred the items that contain potentially harmful information. Not sure what they are? It’s a fairly short list. Here’s ours.
Old Tax Returns. They contain your name, address, social security number, income, and your children’s names and social security numbers. The kids may not be eighteen yet, but people can still try and get credit in their name. Just be sure that you keep the most recent seven returns though, in case you get audited.
Credit card offers. You don’t want to leave them lying around and you don’t want to throw them in the trash. You never know when someone might see them and decide “Oh, I’m going to go get a credit card and they’re not going to know.” You will, when it’s too late.
Pay stubs. They have your name, social security number, address, salary and deduction information, and all kinds of employer information on it. So you definitely want to shred pay stubs.
Convenience checks. Let’s say you receive some from your credit card company, rip them in half and threw them in the trash. Then someone comes along, sees them, tapes them back together, fills them out, and sends them in. Yes, they could be honored even after being torn in half. You’ve just paid off their credit cards and added to yours.
Bank statements. They have your account number, name, address, and account balances on them. Even better than shredding is to go paperless with on-line banking.
Canceled checks. A lot of people think, “Oh, I wrote void on it, no big deal.” But it still has your routing and account number on it.
Canceled credit cards. Always shred a canceled debit or a credit card that so that no one can get the number. It’s a part of your credit history that could help a thief “prove” they’re you.
Outdated IDs. Items such as old college IDs, security badges, employee name tags, and photo IDs could be of value to a thief. There might be information on them that ends up on a fake ID. Shred them.