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The Resource Center Identity Theft & Protection | article

Resolve to Buy a Shredder in the New Year

What’s your New Year's resolution? Many people resolve to craft a whole new identity for themselves. For some of them, this means committing to goals or tasks that will improve upon the person they were the previous year. Others, however, aren't looking to fix their own identity come January 1, but instead resolve to take advantage of other people's good credit by taking part in identity fraud.

To help make sure you don't suffer from someone else's nefarious New Year's Resolution, equip yourself with a paper shredder and start prioritizing what documents are worth keeping and which ones are just leaving you vulnerable to theft.

Put the holidays behind you and shred your receipts
If you've held on to receipts from your holiday shopping that you are sure you won't need, destroy them with your shredder. Do the same with credit card or bank statements that you have already reviewed, as these papers will have information on them that could compromise you should they fall into the hands of an identity thief. Essentially, any document that isn't officially government issued that has your date of birth, address, an account number or your Social Security number should be shredded. Official documents (such as your actual Social Security card) should be kept under lock-and-key so that no one can access them.

If you don't conceal important information, you may be a prime target for theft
By shredding these papers, you may be able to deter thieves from using any of that information to open up accounts in your name. If they are able to do this, then they could potentially run up debt in your name then leave you with the bill, ruining any progress you may have achieved towards your New Year's resolution.

Simply throwing out documents like receipts or statements without shredding them may leave you vulnerable to the work of a dumpster-diving identity thief. These kinds of criminals are known for looking in the trash precisely for sensitive material such as this, so take a precautionary step and make sure these items are thoroughly destroyed.

Take your resolution a step further and invest in some help monitoring your credit
Another gift you should give yourself during the holidays is a credit monitoring service. It's hard to create a new and improved you if someone else is trying to take advantage of your hard work, so a credit monitor will keep a close eye on your credit report and alert you to any strange activity that may signal identity theft. This way, you can focus on building up a good credit score and focusing on your other resolutions.