Shred personal documents to prevent identity theft

Identify theft is a serious problem that has victimized more than 13 million people in the United States. One of the most effective ways to stop this type of felony crime is to shred important documents containing personal information.

Once a thief compromises your identity, it can take months and even years to restore things back to normal. Identity thieves may be able to purchase items or acquire loans in your name. While it may seem a rather simple procedure to prove your identity, this is not always the case.

What makes matters worse is that it is generally legal for someone to sift through your trash cans looking for discarded documents than contain your name, credit card numbers, bank account numbers and other vital personal information.

The United States Supreme Court established an important precedent in the California v. Greenwood case stating that it was unreasonable to have an “expectation of privacy in trash left for collection in an area accessible to the public.” While identity theft itself is illegal, there is nothing to stop someone from digging through your trash left on a public sidewalk or curb.

For this reason, paper shredding is an important defense against the possibility of identity theft. With losses of $112 billion due to such fraud cases over the last six years, it is imperative to take steps to prevent these types of crimes. Contrary to popular belief, these incidents do not always involve high-tech hacking operations.

Paper shredding alone can help prevent this crime from ever happening so long as one takes care to shred any document that contains personal information. Anything including junk mail that contains your name, address, phone number, Social Security number, bank account number or similar details are of use to identity thieves.

Many items that you might throw away without thinking including receipts, pay stubs, luggage tags, subscription magazines and the like may have information that thieves can utilize against you. One way to reduce the workload in paper shredding is simply to cut out the portion of a paper or document that contains your personal details. For example, you do not have to shred an entire magazine just because the mailing label has your name and address.

Proper shredding requires the right type of equipment. If the shreds were too large, it would be easy for someone to reconstruct the original document with some work. Simply tearing documents apart is far from what you require to provide a high level of identity security.

A proper shredder should produce strips similar to confetti that make it nearly impossible for anyone to piece the document back together. Some shredders will not only handle paper documents but will also shred credit cards, CDs and DVDs.

If you produce many paper documents, you should look for a device that can work for a long time without needing to cool down. Investing in a higher quality shredder might also save money in the end by delaying the need for a replacement.

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