According to various financial service firms, identity theft affects more than 11 million people a year and the cost associated with these thefts cost Americans an astronomical $54 billion annually. It is now vitally important with internet and technology that people protect themselves as best they can, and the first place to start if you don’t want to become another identity theft statistic is to get yourself a shredder if you haven’t already got one.
Shredding documents is not just for your big multi-national corporations, working class American citizens have houses and apartments full of personal documents that potentially contain personal information like their social security numbers, bank account information, credit card, credit score and various other personal information.
Most security experts will agree that to dispose of all this sensitive information, people should get a good crosscut shredder. The difference between a normal shredder and a cross-cut shredder is that normal shredders cut your documents in long strip, whereas crosscut paper shredders cut your documents into confetti like pieces.
Once you have yourself a shredder, these are the 8 most important documents you want to shred:
A common question that asked by taxpaying citizens is just how many years worth of tax returns should one keep? Generally the IRS advises that taxpayers should keep their last 4 years worth of tax returns. However, by law, if the IRS suspects that you've been involved in fraudulent activities, they can audit you as far back as they like.
The biggest concern with these tax returns is that it has so much sensitive information that by falling into the wrong hands, it can destroy your identity totally. Most importantly, your tax returns contain your social security number and if married and filing jointly, the social security number of your spouse as well.
Bank & Financial Institution Statements:
Common sense dictates that any paper that has the numbers of your bank accounts needs shredding, which includes all the paper bank statements that you have filed away in your attic for all these years!.
Imagine the theft that can occur should one of your bank statements get into the wrong hand? Back in the old days, social security numbers were commonly found on bank statements but that has thankfully been eradicated now.
Security advisers now recommend shredding all your paper bank statements and switching to online statements that are now becoming more common. You can also stop receiving your paper bank statements and chose to receive them instead via your email.
The most common way to defraud people these days is stealing information through their mailboxes. When paying a bill by check, do not leave the bill in your mailbox for postal service pickup, drop it off instead at your local post office.
New Credit Card Offers:
As everyone can attest to today, junk mail is rife in our mailboxes! Often looked upon as junk mail, offers for new credit cards is actually the most rising identity theft scheme going today.
Unless you have any intention on opening up a new credit card account, you should shred these immediately. These offers do not contain your social security number but fall into the wrong hands; a fraudster can get a new credit card in your name, maximize your spending limit and destroy your credit rating score to shreds.
Photo Identification Cards:
While most photo ID cards such as your old college ID or security work card don’t contain sensitive information, remember that if fallen into the wrong hands can still be used for a larger identity theft scheme.
Your driver’s license for example, has your weight, height, eye color and date of birth, biometric information that they can use to verify an account.
Pay Check Stubs:
One of the most incriminating pieces of paper if it was to ever fall into the wrong hands, your pay stub has so much personal information that can used by an experienced identity thief. Your pay stub has among other personal information, the name of your healthcare provider and the bank accounts you have.
Some financial institutions will ask you the amount of your last deposit as validation that you are who you claim, so if a fraudster had your pay stub in hand, he/ she would be able to get all your personal information from that financial institution.
Have you ever opened your junk mail and found a blank check from your credit card company, scoffed at it and then just trashed it? If you have, don’t worry, you’re one of the millions of Americans that have done that, only did you know that what you just threw down as trash was in fact a check that is a live loan? Convenience checks as I call them, are often sent by credit card companies to their cardholders for you to borrow quick cash against your line of credit.
Now imagine the damage caused by a fraudster who managed to get a hand on one of those checks and opened a line of credit in your name? If you don’t plan on using these convenience checks, shred them immediately.
Unused or Canceled Checks:
Here’s a fact that most consumers don’t know, just because you write “void” on a check doesn’t necessarily mean that the check is secure. The check cannot be used to withdraw money from your bank account, but that check still has your bank account information like your bank account # and your routing code. It probably also has your personal information such as your phone number or your house/ apartment address.
These checks also contain other sensitive information such as your credit card account number. Most people these days still write their full credit card number on the check when paying a credit card bill. If you ever have to give a duplicate check, always make sure that you omit your checking account number for security reasons.
Credit Card Cancellations:
Many people cancel credit cards, it could be because they want to cut the number of cards they own, or maybe they are changing their banks or credit card companies or simply because of a stolen credit card, it’s something that millions of people do every day.
Shredding cards is not something one does all the time, banks and card companies say that it’s not really a big issue if you don’t shred your credit card because once cancelled, there is no chance of theft, however, they do suggest that you cut the magnetic strip from your card because that has encoded information that could be used by thieves to create new accounts using your personal information. If your shredder cannot handle plastic cards, it’s advisable to cut your credit card into as many small pieces as you can and throwing them away in different bags.
You cannot be too careful these days, thieves are moving with the times and are technologically advanced when it comes to identity theft, to avoid becoming a theft victim, shred your documents and cards if you don’t want them to fall into the wrong hands!.