You’ve probably heard about the importance of document shredding to protect your personal information. According to the Canadian Council of Better Business Bureaus, identify theft costs the nation $2 billion annually. But what constitutes the sensitive information fraudsters are looking for? And are there types of documents that you should keep?
What You Should Shred
Typically, protecting yourself requires shredding any paperwork that includes:
* Account numbers
* Passwords and PIN numbers
* Social Insurance Numbers and Tax IDs
* Birth date
Any of this information could be used to impersonate you and gain access to your accounts or apply for credit in your name. To be safe, you should also shred anything with personal information such as your name, address, email, or phone number that make it easier to impersonate you or uncover more information. Maybe some of this information is public knowledge, but simply tossing it in into the trash makes it so much easier for it to be stolen and used.
Some documents you should keep for a period of time if they will help to avoid possible legal issues in the future. These should be kept stored in a locked metal box in a discrete location. If you have an electric shredder for your home or office (and you should), document destruction should include everything you have no need of.
If you aren’t going to open it, shred it. Even letters to “Occupant” might be credit card offers that could provide a thief with a credit card in your name.
Credit Card Statements
Some people advise keeping them for awhile, especially if you need them for tax purposes. Your usual process should be to make sure every charge is legitimate, then shred any receipts once they’re paid. Even better, sign up for paperless billing so that there are no documents for thieves to find.
Mortgage and Tax Documents
For legal reasons, save mortgages and any records of property improvements until five to six years after you’ve sold the property. Save tax information 6-to-7 years before shredding.
Save them, but once you’ve done your taxes, shred the check stubs you don’t need.
Medical and Financial Statement
Keep them for a year in case there are disputes or errors. When they’ve been paid and cleared, shred them.
Shred bills as they are paid. After coverage has expired or been cancelled, wait five years before shredding the policy documents.
Utility Bills and Store/ATM Receipts
If this is something that can help with your taxes, save them. Otherwise, as always, verify billing charges are legit and shred them as soon as they are paid.
The government passed tough laws in 2009 meant to discourage identify theft – but it’s still on the rise. The odds are against any thief going to all the trouble to reassemble random documents from shredded paper. A cross-shredder that reduces them to confetti is even more of a deterrent. Paper shredding is the first and best way to safeguard personal information.