6 shredding tips to prevent identity theft
By RobertSiciliano on December 07, 2013
Shredding is fun! Repeat that 10 times and you just might start believing it. Certainly shredding is a tad bit of work, but that’s what kids and interns are for!
Shredding might be inconvenient, but it’s absolutely necessary—and it’s fundamental to protecting your identity and the identities of those who have entrusted you with their data. Shredding is like recycling, eating well and exercise: You may not always want to do it, but it’s good for you.
Here’s how to better manage your shredables:
- Primary documents: I shred everything that comes in the mail with my name on it and that I don’t need. Shred or destroy prescription bottles, CDs with data on them, and supporting tax documents older than three years (some say seven), including investment statements, bank statements, canceled checks and paystubs.
- Secondary documents: Documents like ATM receipts, credit card statements, utility bills and insurance policies should all be kept for two years. The only reason to keep these is in case you determine a mistake was made so you can go back and look. Otherwise, if you can access any of these documents online, shred them now. Homeowner-related documents should be kept as long as you own the home and maybe a year after you eventually sell it.
- Devices: Don’t forget to shred or destroy hard drives, SD cards, mobile phones, SIM cards and thumb drives. While reformatting and reinstalling an operating system will get rid of most of the data, it’s just better to kill the drive with a special shredder for non-paper files—also known as a sledgehammer.
- Reduce paper: One way to reduce all the stuff needing shredding is to turn off the paper. At this point, most, if not all, of your bank, credit card, utilities, mobile phone and other accounts allow (and in some cases, require) e-statements. This means every month you’ll get an email stating, “Your statement is ready!” But don’t click that link, as it could be a phish. Get access to your statements through a password manager or via your favorite menu.
- Shred-a-thons: Many banks now sponsor shred-a-thons where one of those crankin’, big shredding trucks shows up to the bank’s parking lot and you can watch boxes and boxes of your stuff get decimated right in front of you. Bring the kids!
- Burn it: Depending on the amount of stuff you have to shred and your local ordinances regarding conflagrations, you might want to box up all of your shredables and burn them the same time you might burn leaves, or when you have a backyard bonfire.
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