Is shredding documents really necessary? Is shredding enough to prevent identity theft?
These are questions asked by consumers all the time. Some people don't believe shredding sensitive documents is enough, while others claim that everything must be shredded.
The truth is that even with all the cybercrime out there, most of identity theft relies on a good, old-fashioned paper trail. In other words, identity thieves are not above digging through your trash, looking for documents that bear your personal and financial information. They'll go dumpster diving, and they'll steal your wallet – whatever it takes. This means that tossing anything that bears your name, address, telephone number, birth date or banking information can put you at risk.
Documents that should be shredded include credit card receipts and expired credit cards, medical and financial records, canceled checks, computer printouts, tax records, bank statements, credit card statements, and pre-approved credit offers. You should also shred documents you no longer need. Each state has regulations on how long certain documents should be kept, particularly if they are needed for business or tax purposes. Non-tax documents, including utility, credit card and medical billing statements, should be kept for one to three years. Tax documents should be kept up to six years.
Will shredding prevent identity theft? No. Nothing you do can prevent it. But you can certainly put a damper on a thief's efforts – so yes…shredding documents is necessary. We must all do whatever we can in order to thwart identity theft.