Did you know that nearly 90% of identity thieves use sensitive information gained from print sources rather than those found online? Many people are surprised by this statistic, assuming that their personal info is move vulnerable on the Internet. However, in reality, thieves are much more likely to go through your recycling bin than your hack into your inbox.
With this in mind, it is especially important to be vigilant in how you store and dispose of your most sensitive documents. This starts with actually knowing which items are most valuable to identity thieves and how to get rid of those you don’t need anymore. If you run a business that handles sensitive customer or patient information, document shredding is even more important.
But do you know which documents need to be securely shredded, and when exactly it’s time to call for shredding services?
What to shred
Most valuable to criminals looking to steal someone’s identity are any documents that reveal account numbers, pins, passwords, signatures, birth dates, or social security numbers. This includes any kind of legal documents, voided checks, bank or credit card statements, ATM receipts, utility bills, and even resumes. These items should all be shredded immediately. Copies of your birth certificate and expired passports contain a wealth of sensitive information and should also be shredded.
Tax records are tricky because while you probably won’t need them in the future, there is always the possibility of an audit. The IRS typically has three years to audit you, but that statue can extend up to seven years. So, as a general rule of thumb, it’s best to hold onto all tax-related documents for seven years before it’s safe to shred them. Just be sure that your tax records are stored in a highly secure environment like a locked safe.
Pay stubs present a similar predicament. You want to keep them for a year so that you can ensure that they match up with your W-2 come tax season. Once you have filed your taxes, it is safe to shred them.
What to keep
Some documents contain essential information that you will need for life. For these items, document shredding is not advised. However, these documents may also contain personal info that can be used to steal your identity. Papers like your original birth certificate, social security card, marriage certificate, divorce decrees, diplomas and educational records, life insurance policies, and wills and trusts must be kept forever and stored somewhere entirely safe and secure.
Never toss these sorts of sensitive documents in the trash or recycling bin. Once anything is placed on the sidewalk, it becomes fair game to the public. Instead, hire a residential document shredding company and use their paper shredding services to properly dispose of personal information.