10 Surprising Things You Should Be Shredding
You probably know you need to shred any document that contains sensitive personal or financial information such as Social Security number, account numbers, etc. (For a full list of what documents should be shredded, see When Should You Shred?)
But there are many other things that shouldn’t be casually thrown away or recycled. You’d be surprised how much personal information can be retrieved from these items:
Magazines and Catalogs
No, you don’t have to shred the entire thing, but rip off the personalized label before you toss them in the recycle bin. For catalogs, check the interior order form to make sure it hasn’t been preprinted with your name, address, and customer or account number. Some catalogs do that to make it easier for you to place an order, but unfortunately it makes identity theft and fraud easier too.
The ones you get in the newspaper are safe, but the personalized ones sent directly to you from your favorite stores have your name, address, and perhaps other information about you that stores use to track whether sending you a coupon gets you to make a purchase. If you don’t use them, shred them.
Anything with your official signature—even if it’s a birthday card—should be shredded. That includes receipts and all official documents.
Travel itineraries can tell criminals not only your personal information and payment details, but also the exact dates when you’ll be away from home. Keep your travel plans away from prying eyes by shredding travel itineraries, boarding passes, and luggage tags.
Make sure any envelope that displays your name and address is shredded for safety.
One man’s junk is another man’s treasure, and that is certainly the case for unsolicited mail, which can hide a wealth of personal data that can be used to appropriate your identity or open accounts in your name. Be sure to shred all junk mail to be sure none of it falls into the wrong hands. For more information, see The Hidden Dangers of Junk Mail.
You know how some financial institutions require you to answer several “security questions” as an additional way to keep your account safe? Questions often involve things like your favorite TV show, high school mascot, first car, childhood pet, etc. Your personal correspondence may include some of this information, and in the wrong hands could be used to attempt to access your accounts, or even set up an account in your name.
Anything Involving Your Child
When it comes to identity theft, children are extra vulnerable because most parents don’t think to check their child’s credit report, so a lot of financial damage can be done before anyone discovers the crime. Be sure to shred anything that contains identifying information about your child, including medical documents, school forms, report cards, and transcripts.
Your name, address, and entire education and career history—a treasure trove of information for a criminal. Be sure to store current resumes in a safe place, and shred outdated ones.
Packing Receipts and Labels
Take an extra minute to peel off and shred those pre-printed address labels from packages you’ve received before you recycle the boxes. And always shred packing receipts—many have bar codes containing personal information, or reference credit card numbers or other payment details in addition to your name and address.