5 On Your Side

Shred documents to protect personal information

Posted October 30, 2012 5:30 p.m. EDT
Updated October 30, 2012 6:33 p.m. EDT

There are at least eight things most people have in their homes right now that they need to shred to keep ID thieves from stealing their personal information!

Start with anything with a birthdate, an account number, a PIN code or password, recommends Rebekah O'Connell, of Triangle Family Services, and add anything with a signature or Social Security number.

"Those always should be shredded," O'Connell said.

O'Connell teaches people how not to become a victim of identity theft. She's seen the mess people are left with when the wrong person gets the right information.

That's why, she says, people should also shred pay stubs, bank statements and the constant credit card offers.

"There have been tests run where they actually tore them in half, taped them together and mailed them back in and got credit cards," O'Connell said.

Tax returns also contain dangerous amounts of detail.

"Absolutely every bit of the information someone would need for ID theft is included in your old tax return," O'Connell said. "So, that's a given."

Old photo IDs could be trouble, O'Connell adds, whether related to work or school, and of course driver's licenses.

"A lot of them are awfully easy for someone to change a picture and then create an ID with your name on it," she said.

Canceled or expired credit cards should either be shredded or cut up. The pieces should be placed in different trash cans.

"It might not be hard for someone to fish them out of the bag and reassemble them," O'Connell said. "The account number, security code on the back and expiration date is all anyone needs."

With personal checks, O'Connell says writing "VOID" isn't enough.

Shred them to protect account and routing numbers.

The same thing goes with those credit card convenience checks.

"Shred immediately," O'Connell said. "Those things – all someone needs to do is find them and use them like a check. Those are deadly."

A couple of interesting side notes: Experts say the people most likely to steal IDs are people you know. So don't leave personal information sitting out around the house.

College students also need to be careful because of roommates and so many other people typically roaming in and out of dorms.

That's why a shredder is a must-have at home and in the dorm.