Receipts, bills, and other paperwork often include personal information that can be used or sold by thieves. Shredding unneeded documents is one way to help protect yourself from identity theft.
WHEN TO SHRED
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers an overview of how long you should store most types of documents.
Items like receipts you don’t need, bills you’ve already paid, and credit card offers can be shredded right away. But be careful to retain receipts related to business expenses, home renovations, or other paperwork that you may need to keep for purposes such as taxes or recordkeeping.
Records and items you should store for a longer period include documents kept for tax purposes, titles, deeds, and medical records. You may wish to keep financial statements for up to a year, but financial institutions may make these available to you online. SLFCU members can access up to two years of account history and 18 months of statement history inside CU@home online banking.
Rachel Dimas, SLFCU’s Risk Manager, says, “In the end, what to shred and what to keep is really a personal preference – you just need to practice smart storage of any records you keep.”
Items that should be stored include Social Security cards, birth certificates, marriage licenses, and death certificates. These types of documents should be kept in a secure location like a safe deposit box. “If you choose to keep records in the home, they should be kept in a fireproof safe or fireproof filing cabinet, and should be secured at all times,” Rachel says.
HOW TO SHRED
If you have a shredder at home, you can shred most documents yourself. Rachel recommends a cross-cut shredder as opposed to a strip-cut shredder. She says, “I have seen ample case evidence where strip-cut paper was easily obtained and recreated. I don’t see this as a smart or safe option, even though these shredders are still available to consumers.”
If you have a large amount of material to shred, you can search online for a shredding service near you. “Shredding services are a good way to go,” says Rachel, “and consumers should seek a company that is NAID certified. Many of these businesses shred much more than paper, such as hard drives and other storage devices.”
SLFCU hosts semi-annual shredding events where members may bring items to be shredded onsite by an NAID-certified shredding company. Appropriate shred items for these events include documents that contain personal information, with a limit of two banker’s-sized boxes of shred material per member. Only paper can be shredded (no folders or media). Shred events are announced in our Dollars & Sense newsletter, and are posted on the online events calendar.
REDUCE YOUR PAPER FOOTPRINT
Avoid the issue of storing or shredding old documents altogether by reducing the amount of paper you receive. Sign up for electronic statements and notices, and request electronic receipts from stores that offer them. Stay organized by creating folders for these items within your email inbox. To sign up for eStatements or eNotices at SLFCU, log in to online banking, select Alerts, then choose “eStatements and eNotices.”
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