Preventing ID Theft: Why it's Good to Shred Sensitive Documents

3 minute read | May 23, 2024

What You’ll Learn   

  • Learn how shredding physical documents can help prevent identity theft and fraud. 
  • Find out how to find free shredding events in your area.

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In today’s digital age, safeguarding sensitive financial information is more important than ever. While much focus is placed on cybersecurity measures to protect digital data, it’s equally important not to overlook the physical security of paper financial documents. Shredding documents containing sensitive financial information is a proactive step towards ensuring your privacy and protecting yourself against identity theft and fraud.  

How Does Shredding Help Prevent Identity Theft?   

With so many transactions happening digitally these days, it can be easy to forget about your hard copy documents when it comes to security. Improper disposal of financial documents poses a significant risk of identity theft. Thieves will often sift through trash to find valuable personal and financial info. We’re talking about information such as bank statements, credit card bills, tax forms, receipts, and any other printed document that might contain sensitive data like account numbers, passwords, and social security numbers. Shredding your documents helps ensure your personal information remains confidential and inaccessible to those who shouldn’t have it. 

 What Documents Should You Consider Shredding? 

  • Address labels from junk mail and magazines. 
  • ATM receipts. 
  • Bank statements. 
  • Birth certificate copies. 
  • Canceled and voided checks. 
  • Credit and charge card bills, carbon copies, summaries, and receipts. 
  • Credit reports and histories. 
  • Employment records. 
  • Expired credit and identification cards (e.g., driver’s licenses, college IDs, employee badges). 
  • Insurance documents. 
  • Investment, stock, and property transactions. 
  • Medical and dental records. 
  • Papers with a Social Security number. 
  • Pre-approved credit card applications. 
  • Receipts with checking account numbers. 
  • Tax forms. 
  • Utility bills. 

 How Long Should You Keep Sensitive Documents? 

To shred or not to shred, this is the question. Here are some quick guidelines to help you determine how long to keep financial documents and other records: 

  • Tax Records: Keep for 7 years. 
  • Pay Stubs: Keep for 1 year. 
  • Bank Statements: Keep for 1 year, or longer for important transactions. 
  • Credit Card Statements: Keep for 45 days. 
  • Medical Records: Keep for 1 year, or longer for disputes. 
  • Insurance Records: Keep for the duration of the policy plus 5 years. 
  • Utility and Phone Bills: Shred after paying, unless they contain tax-deductible expenses. 
  • IRA Contributions: Keep until you withdraw the money. 
  • Home Purchase/Sale/Improvements: Keep for 6 years after selling. 
  • Warranties: Keep until they expire. 

Consider Switching to eStatements to Protect Your Sensitive Info  

Switching from getting paper statements to getting your statements in digital form can reduce the number of documents you need to shred and enhance the security of your financial information. A paper statement can also get lost in the mail or stolen—another way criminals can find your sensitive information.  Salal members can check out this article to learn more about the benefits and positive impacts of enrolling in eStatements 

How to Find Shredding Services and Fee Events Near You 

Looking to shred some documents? Local community organizations or city-sponsored initiatives often host free shredding events. Checking your local and state government website is a good place to start. Washington state, for example, maintains a calendar of upcoming shred events.   

Another good place to check is AARP’s local events site and search for “free paper shredding events.” The site Paper Shredding Events also keeps an ongoing list of free shredding events around the US.  

If you can’t wait for a free event, many shipping and office supply stores like Staples, Office Depot, Office Max, The UPS Store, and FedEx offer shredding services for a fee. 

Questions About Securing Financial Info? 

Feel free to send us a secure message through Salal digital banking or call us at 800.562.5515. If you believe you have been a victim of fraud, call Salal’s Fraud Department at 800.562.5515, ext. 8922 (M–F, 9:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. PT). 

 

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