Shredding your sensitive documents before discarding them is one of the easiest ways to help prevent your identity being stolen and fraudulently used against you. Dumpster divers will go through your trash in search of personal information. If you don’t destroy this sensitive material, you’re at risk of becoming a victim. Invest in a good quality shredder for your home. A “cross cut” shredder is preferable to a standard shredder as it cuts the documents into smaller pieces, which are less likely to be legible. If you have large amounts of items to shred, you can hire a commercial shredding company to shred your documents on site for a fee.
What documents should I shred?
Basically you should be shredding any documents that contain personal information. This includes paperwork and junk mail which contains:
- Social Security Numbers
- Pin #’s and Passwords
- Birth dates
- Bank account numbers
You may also want to shred items that have names, addresses, email addresses and phone numbers, just to be on the safe side.
How long should I hold onto my sensitive paperwork & documents?
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when going through old boxes of paperwork. It’s even more difficult to figure out what to keep and what not to keep. Here’s some general rules of how long you should keep your sensitive documents before destroying them.
- Pay Stubs – 1 year.
- Bank Statements – 1 year. But consider keeping records that are related to your taxes or business if you feel you may need them in the future.
- Tax Records – 7 years. The IRS must conduct an audit within 3 years if they believe you made a mistake on your returns and within 6 years if you under reported your income by 25% or more.
- Medical Records – 1 year, but possibly longer in case a dispute arises from an insurance reimbursement or such.
What should I do with my shredded documents?
You can either discard your cross cut shreddings in the normal trash bin, or you can place it with paper recycling. Some cities won’t recycle shredded paper, while others will. Check with your local waste disposal company for more information.