We all know Identity Theft is one of the fastest growing crimes. While there are many steps you should take and cautions you should heed to avoid being a victim, one of the most important safeguards is also the easiest to do.
Properly disposing of your sensitive documents that contain personal information is one of the best ways to prevent someone from obtaining your information. Paper documents should be shredded. Electronic records should be properly destroyed. If you are disposing, donating or recycling a PC, protect your data by removing and destroying the hard drive.
Be sure what you do keep is stored in a safe place. Consider a safe deposit box for paper documents such as birth certificates, social security cards and the like. Electronic documents should be stored in at least two places, or two different media types, because technology does change – what is used today may not be viable tomorrow (think floppy disk) and technology can (and often does) fail.
The question is what to dispose of and what to keep? Following are a number of guidelines:
- Tax Items: Keep tax returns and supporting documents 7 years. Returns and supporting documents can be kept electronically, allowing you to scan and then shred the originals.
- Bank and Credit Card Statements: Toss after transactions are verified or better yet, sign up for electronic statements.
- Utility Bills: Toss after paid unless needed for tax returns.
- Receipts: Keep ATM and purchase receipts until cleared on your bank account or if needed for return or warranty. Keep larger purchase receipts if needed for insurance or taxes.
- Insurance Statements: Keep the statement for the current policy that is in place and any receipts needed for insured items.
- Home Finance: Toss documents when loan is paid or sold. Hold on to the final notice stating your loan has been paid off.
- Lease/Contracts: Keep as long as the contract is active.- Credit Card Applications: Shred immediately. Thieves have been known to get a credit card in your name using these documents, even when they’ve been ripped up.
- Investment Statements: Keep the year end statements.
- Social Security Statements: Only keep the latest.
Luckily, we are able to sign up for electronic statements for most of our accounts. Estatements save us the trouble of having to shred, save trees and prevent the chance of documents with sensitive information from getting lost in the mail. Statements can be downloaded, if needed, at a future date. Even pay stubs are online now too.
Want to learn more about protecting yourself from identity theft? Join us for our complimentary Identity Theft seminars and Document Shred Days starting this week and running through the end of October. Go to standardbanks.com/shred
for times and locations.