Identity theft is becoming a multi-trillion dollar business, and one of the ways criminals get personally identifiable information is by digging through the trash and using account numbers to create false identities. Your account numbers are often located on numerous documents you throw away each month, and even if you rip them into tiny pieces, it’s quite easy for criminals to piece information back together in order to get what they want.
Ideally, paper shredding is the way to go, especially if you use a paper shredder that will cross-cut your documents, not only cutting them lengthwise but also horizontally, essentially turning them into confetti. If you don’t have a paper shredder, though, there are other options to ensure that your personally identifiable information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.
Probably the easiest way to destroy documents is by soaking them in water. Most paper and ink will be irrepairable once soaked in water for a few hours. The easiest way to do this is place unwanted documents in a plastic bag or container, soak them in water for a few hours, and then shred them by hand (which won’t be difficult at all) prior to placing them in a recycle bin or refuse container.
If you live in an area that allows you to burn trash, you can always burn sensitive documents. On a small scale, you can do this in a barbecue grill. On a larger scale, you will need to check local ordinances to determine if burning requires a permit or is allowed at all. Burning will completely destroy documents beyond recognition.
Another alternative to paper shredding is simply using a pair of scissors to cut sensitive documents. This is probably the least reliable way of ensuring personally identifiable information won’t fall into the wrong hands, as cut strips of paper are more likely to be pieced back together than soaked, burned, or shredded documents. Of course, if this is your only option, it’s still better than tossing whole documents into the garbage. Cutting will most likely only be a viable option if you don’t have many documents to destroy. You can even use a hole punch to ensure account numbers and other sensitive data are torn into tinier pieces.
For personal use, all of the above options are great solutions in lieu of paper shredding; however, if you or your company require massive amounts of document destruction, another option is to consider outsourcing paper shredding to an external company. Depending on the nature of your business, you may deal with large amounts of paper on a regular basis. Paper shredding can take time away from other work that needs to be done, and when papers aren’t shredded in a timely fashion, they can add up to a large workload. Outsourcing to another company will free you up to work on more pressing issues and will also give you the flexibility to shred large amounts of documents all at once rather than piecemealing the process.
Whichever solution works for you, just be sure to keep your sensitive data out of the wrong hands by destroying it before you toss it.