Cleaning & Organizing
8 Revealing Everyday Documents You Never Knew You Should Shred
Once trash is off your property, it’s legal for anyone to take. Prevent identity theft by making sure these documents aren’t tossed in one piece.
Adam Voorhes for Reader's Digest
Shred documents after you land: Your boarding pass has your name, your travel plans, and a barcode that free websites can decipher. This code often reveals your frequent-flier number, which crooks can use to log in to airline accounts to view upcoming travel plans, check in to flights, and even cancel trips. Find out what it means if you spot an “SSSS” on your boarding pass.
Whether stapled to the Rx bag or on the bottle, these labels may list your name, the date of initial dispensing, the name and strength of the drug, and the dispensing pharmacist’s name. Thieves may use this info to refill prescriptions or steal your identity. When you’re done with your medication, here are the safest ways to dispose of leftovers.
Shred all receipts you don’t save. Those from credit card purchases reveal the last digits of your card number and possibly your signature. Crooks can also use receipts for fraudulent returns and benefit from your store credit if you don’t shred documents. If you really want to play it safe, switch to paperless receipts wherever you can—you’ll be helping the environment, too!
Pet medical papers
Keep records of major events, and shred the rest. Papers from a vet visit show a pet’s name—which a Google Apps survey of 2,000 people found is the most common password choice. Here are some other common digital passwords.
Shred free return labels you receive in the mail, along with any envelopes with your name and address. Thieves often pair this with what you post on social media (family member names, work history) to piece together your identity. When writing your return address on an envelope, omit your name. Here are some more things an identity thief doesn’t want you to know.
Don’t toss resume copies or drafts without shredding. Resumes hand crooks your name, phone number, address, email address, employment past, and education history in one convenient piece of paper, hence why it’s so important to shred documents and not simply throw them out.
Extra birth announcements
Children are 51 percent more likely to be victims of identity theft than adults. Shred birth announcements you don’t save, which typically have the child’s name, birth date, weight, eye color, and other personal identifiers. If the newborn is yours, don’t accept monetary gifts (like a savings bond) that ask for the child’s social security number—it is often not required to open an account. This woman had her identity stolen—don’t let it happen to your child.
Extra funeral pamphlets
Thefts use the identities of more than 2 million deceased Americans every year to apply for loans, open credit card accounts, or file tax returns, collecting billions of dollars in refunds. Shred extra funeral pamphlets or obituaries you don’t save. If a loved one passes, list age in the obituary but not the birth date or mother’s maiden name—these personal identifiers are handy for ID thieves.
[Sources: Tod Burke, professor of criminal justice at Radford University and former Maryland police officer; Paige Hanson, chief of identity education at LifeLock, an identity theft protection company; krebsonsecurity.com; itproportal.com; rivercitybankonline.com; goaskalice.columbia.edu; pharmlabs.unc.edu; aarp.org; irs.gov]