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Knowing what to shred is based on knowing what identity thieves are after and what they can do with the unshredded documents you discard.
Junk Mail: junk mail containing personal information such as pre-approved credit card applications can easily be used by identity thieves to start credit cards in your name sent to their address.
Documents containing your social security number: even if only the last four digits, a savvy identity thief can piece together an identity profile from other discarded documents at the same disposal location.
Account numbers: for anything from your bank to your gas company to receipts from a credit card purchase, numerical data that is connected to your personal info becomes a window of opportunity to access more detailed and vital information.
Documents you think are old and are no longer important: old tax returns, old checks, old insurance or medical statements may seem useless to you, but to an identity thief they can be used to establish a history of your personal information and leveraged to access current data.
A good shredder will destroy all pre-approved credit card application materials including the faux card that sometimes is included.
ID Theft Target: Forty-nine percent of college students receive credit card applications on a daily or weekly basis. Almost 30 percent of students throw out card applications without destroying them.
Your social security number is the Rosetta Stone for identity thieves. With it, they can generate a false identity that can be used to request loans, establish bank accounts and commit crimes. Even if a document only contains the last four digits of your social security number—shred it!
ID Theft Target: Because children are a blank slate, identity thieves seek out the social security information of kids. The Federal Trade Commission received 18,300 complaints involving identity theft on people 19 and under last year. Eight percent of the identity theft complaints the FTC received last year involved children.
The average person has so many numbers relating to identity from financial to medical to insurance-we often don’t think of them as access points for identity theft. Even when we review online accounts, we may sometimes print the output and discard without thinking. All documents with account information must be shredded.
ID Theft Target: Hospitals, tax offices, banks, loan companies and other businesses that handle personal information are key targets for identity thieves. Businesses with this responsibility should maintain a Document Shredding Best Practices Policy.
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