The Simplest Way To Protect Against Identity Theft

Written by on April 26, 2013 in Money - No comments | Print this page

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identity theftYou’ve heard all the warnings and, perhaps, you know someone whose identity has been stolen, but you still think that it will never happen to you.

You may be right as long as you are taking the necessary precautions.

Consumer Sentinel Network reports that 18% of the total consumer complaints received are for identity theft. 52% of the complaints are for fraud, which also involve identity theft, in one form or another.

Most common sources

The sources of identity theft can tell a lot about where thieves are getting their information:

  • 46% government documents/benefits fraud
  • 13% credit card fraud
  • 10% phone or utilities Fraud
  • 6% bank fraud
  • 5% employment fraud
  • 2% loan fraud

The way that most identity fraud works is that a thief will got through trash in front of a victim’s house. There they find stubs from government documents, credit card offers and utility bills. Generally, they will simply pretend to be their victim, using a fake address and will run “the game” until someone figures it out and turns off the money.

The easiest thing to do to protect your identity is to use a six-crosscut shredder. You can also safely shred all your documents at your community’s “shredding days.” Most communities have them; just contact your Chamber of Commerce and ask when the next one is.

How long should I keep it?

Some people fall into the trap of holding on to absolutely everything “just in case”. Here are some recommended time frames to keep things:

  • Bank and credit card statements, as well as utility bills, can be safely shredded after two years.
  • Once you have the W2 for last year’s work, you can get rid of the pay stubs from that year.
  • Tax deduction and return receipts should be kept for seven years since the IRS has that long to audit you.
  • Receipts for major purchases, such as a refrigerator, water heater or car, should be held onto until you do not have the item anymore or until the warranty has expired.

Other items that should be shredded are:

  • Anything with your address, birth date, credit card number, email address, medical or legal information, name, passwords and pins, phone number, signature, or your social security number on it
  • Cancelled and duplicate checks
  • Cancelled credit cards
  • Credit card offers
  • Insurance papers
  • Luggage tags (because they have your address and phone number on them)
  • Old photo ids
  • Report cards (different schools list different information on them)
  • Travel itineraries and tickets
  • Utility bills

Careful what you put in the trash

The most common identity thefts don’t come from online theft, despite all the hype it gets on the evening news. Most identity thieves simply go through your trash, pull out a few good pieces of mail or financial records and they have what they need to get started.

Shredding documents prevents anyone from getting access to your information and can save you thousands of dollars and years of hassle. Protecting yourself is very simple.

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Beacon Secure is a full service Tucson document shredding and secure destruction facility that can handle any sized project.

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