Everyone is familiar with the saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” and that idiom is especially true for identity thieves who root around in your garbage to lift highly sensitive information. Garbage theft has been a longstanding method for identity thieves, and it still remains one of the most common ways that people become the victims of fraud.
When it comes to protecting your personal information from the hands of a thief, shredding your old documents is the way to go. However, not everyone has access shredder or has a shredder that can handle a high volume. Businesses often use independent shredding companies to tackle their document load, and that same strategy is encouraged for personal use as well.
Attending a shredding event is a great way to boost your identity protection because it’s a safe way to get rid of your confidential documents. These events offer an opportunity to safely dispose of old papers and educate yourself on identity theft. Sometimes they are organized locally. Other times they are handled by national associations like the Better Business Bureau or companies like Shred-It, which has regional “Community Shred-It” events. Some, like BBB’s “Shred Fest,” are free, while others require a nominal fee or donation. The free events tend to promote a certain company’s services while informing the public on how shredding can boost identity protection to gain new clients.
Shredding events typically take place annually or bi-annually so it’s important to research when the next one in your area will be and stay up to date on its details so you can plan accordingly. They’re typically held in accessible locations in your neighborhood, like large parking lots, to serve as many people in the community as possible. Shred-It says its events have helped as many as 2,000 community members with 70 tons of recycled, shredded paper.
What’s especially helpful about these events is that you don’t have to be selective about what you shred. If something feels even remotely sensitive to you, it’s best to follow your instinct to shred it. According to the BBB, documents that should be shredded include year-old canceled checks that have no long-term significance for tax or other purposes, receipts from card payments, credit card and bank statements, credit card contracts or loan agreements, investment documentation, paycheck stubs and bills. Generally, a good rule of thumb to follow is that any document that includes Social Security Numbers, birth dates, PIN numbers, passwords or signatures shouldn’t be carelessly tossed into your garbage.
Another great tool you can add to your arsenal to avoid the damage of identity theft is an identity theft protection service. Identity Guard monitors credit, Social Security Numbers and public records and can notify you of certain activity that may indicate fraud. We also offer a suite of software tools designed to help secure your digital personal information, like anti-virus and keystroke encryption.