Credit Card fraud is a real problem that is not going away any time soon. In fact, credit card fraud attempts are up 46% year-over-year per MerchantCostConsulting.com. However, there are things we can do to protect ourselves from identity thieves. It starts with being mindful of sensitive information sent within regular mail or junk mail. This information can be found on bank statements, utility bills, medical bills, credit card applications, and credit card statements from business and financial institutions. The rest of the information can be culled from online. From online websites, they can capture your credit card account numbers, phone number, and email address. Finally, telemarketers can try to get you to provide your social security number. Putting all this information together in a database they have a strong financial profile of you. However, you are not helpless. There are documents you should shred to avoid credit fraud.
Documents You Should Shred
I personally shred any document with my name and address regardless of their sensitivity. I have been hacked too many times to take any chances. For instance, I have shredded catalog labels, prescription labels, etc.
Let’s start with documents you should shred. You should shred credit card offers, credit card and bank statements, canceled checks, pay stubs, and any documents containing financial information. It is not necessary to hold onto these financial statements older than one year. However, credit offers should be shredded as soon as you decide that you are not taking advantage of these offers from the credit card issuer. Especially the pre-approved credit card offers.
It is not wise to hang onto old debit and credit cards. A new card typically has the same card number as the newly expired card. It is not too hard for an identity thief to determine your new expiration date since it is typically just a few years from the expiration date. A good hacker can also figure out the security code.
Your credit score and report from the major credit bureaus should be shredded as soon as you receive a new one or have resolved any disputes.
You should also shred tax-related documents over seven years old. The government will only audit your tax records for the past seven years. Therefore, there is no reason to hang onto this mountain of tax returns.
Next, you should delete old medical bills, statements, and any communication with your insurance company that is older than a year. However, maintain any medical documentation that is part of a claims dispute until the issue is resolved.
Finally, you should shred any old identification cards, such as driver’s licenses or passports. Even though they have expired they have a wealth of information that an identity thief can use.
Types Of Documents You Should Not Shred
There are documents that should never be shredded. Rather, they should be stored in fireproof boxes or safe deposit boxes. These documents should be held onto in case you need to prove residency, purchase a home, start a new job, etc.
- Birth Certificates
- Death Certificates
- Social Security Cards
- Marriage Licenses
- Divorce Papers and Settlements
- Military Discharge Documents
- Car Title
- Wills and Living Wills
- Deed to your Home
- The most recent version of your retirement plan
- Life Insurance Policy
- Current Auto and Home Insurance Policies
Invest In A Paper Shredder
The best way to dispose of financial documents is to use a paper shredder. I prefer to use a cross-cut shredder for maximum security for everything. It is an easy way to take care of important documents as well as a simple address label.
However, don’t allow the paper clutter to accumulate as it may become overwhelming to get rid of. If you find yourself overwhelmed you can hire a company specialized in shredding documents or visit your local office supply store that offers shredding service. However, you will have to bring all your papers to them versus having a company come and pick up your documents and shred the documents for you. I have used both services to my satisfaction.
Never ever dispose of any documents with your social security, date of birth, bank account or credit card numbers, or the actual credit card in a recycling bin. It leaves you vulnerable to those crooks to go through your trash and use your sensitive documents for fraud.
Metal Credit Card
Paper shredders are a great way to protect your account information from getting into the wrong hands. However, you will not be able to shred the more exclusive metal card with a standard shredder. They will damage the home shredders as well as heavy-duty shredders. Therefore, you should use one of the recommended options.
You can mail the metal card back to the card issuer. Most recommend that you do so and will even provide an addressed postage-paid envelope.
If you have access to the bank issuing the metal credit card, then simply drop it off at a local branch. A representative may be able to assist you or provide you with other options for returning the card.
You can try using tin snips as a regular pair of scissors is mainly good for cutting up a piece of paper and very thin cardboard.
Paperless Is The Way To Go
Whenever possible I go paperless. Especially, for credit card statements, utility statements, and bank account statements. If I ever need to obtain a copy, I go online and download a PDF file of the statements. Since I only ever needed a copy of my bank statements for purchasing or refinancing my home this is not an issue. There is no need to keep months of statements on hand cluttering up your home or business.
As an identity theft victim, I try to use every tool in the world to prevent crooks from getting my personal information. Here are some easy ways for you to protect yourself.
- Shred everything with your full name, address, and financial information.
- Shred preapproved credit card offers.
- Do not toss any documents with sensitive information into the trash cans.
- Store important documents in a safe place.
- Read the Fair Credit Reporting Act which protects information collected by consumer reporting agencies.
- Avoid telemarketing calls.
- Use paperless technology.
- Do not share financial information on social media.
- Freeze your credit cards via your banking app or financial institution.
- Freeze your credit reports via the major credit bureaus.