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The Resource Center Identity Theft & Protection | article

Make Sure Your Spring Cleaning Extends to Your File Cabinet

As we transition out of the frigid cold winter months and into the much more tolerable weather that comes about with spring, many homeowners are taking advantage of the change as a chance to let the fresh air into their homes and do some extensive cleaning. Whether that means hosing off the lawn furniture that has been gathering dust in your basement or going through your bedroom and giving it a thorough de-cluttering, when you undertake a spring cleaning project, you'll likely be giving yourself a little piece of mind once it's all said and done.

As you conduct your annual spring overhaul, you should be sure to turn your eyes toward your file cabinet or home office. Messes tend to build up in these spaces at an alarming rate, and the consequences can be more than just unpleasant aesthetics.

A cleaner office will improve your productivity
If you aren't careful about how you organize certain sensitive documents, you'll be making routine business, such as filing for taxes or applying for a loan, a much lengthier process. Instead of knowing where to find necessary papers for certain tasks, you'll be forced to dig through messy piles in search of the correct document. You may even lose track of some papers entirely, and if they have sensitive personal identification information on them like your date of birth or Social Security number, the person who does find these files could use them to commit identity theft.

You don't need to hold onto every file
Take a few hours to dig through these documents and make separate piles for the items you'll need to hold on to and the documents that can be disposed of. Old bank or credit card statements generally have a pretty short shelf life and can usually go into the trash pile. Other items like credit card offers or applications should definitely be thrown away if you don't intend to accept them or mail them in. If an identity thief were to find an offer that was sent to you from a credit card company, they could respond for you and open up a line of credit in your name — potentially damaging your credit score and leaving you with the bill.

A shredder can be a very helpful tool in helping you clean
Many thieves have no problem digging through trash — especially if it appears that there might be personal identification information within. If you don't already have a paper shredder, look into getting one ASAP and have all of the files you are disposing of sent through it. You should also look into enlisting the services of a credit monitoring program to help keep an eye on your financial activity, alerting you of certain activities that could be damaging to your credit report.