Protecting oneself from theft used to be as basic as securing the doors and windows of your home. But today, an enterprising thief can take control of your assets without breaking into your home. Identity theft continues to be one of the fastest-growing crimes in the United States. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), approximately 10 million Americans have their identities stolen each year.
So how do you secure your identity?
Clues to your personal and financial information are often buried throughout your personal paperwork and mail. One search through your mailbox or trash could garner enough information for a thief to take control of your identity and your finances. Thieves use credit cards, financial statements, and utility bills to obtain and exploit your personal information.
The first line of defense is to destroy documents that contain your personal information before anyone can access them. Private documents and credit or debit cards, which contain sensitive information, should be destroyed once you no longer need them. If you need a reference of what to shred and what can be tossed, check out our other blog post: To Shred or Not to Shred.
Here are four suggestions for properly destroying those personal documents:
A paper shredder will transform your documents into unidentifiable strips of paper. If you don’t have a shredder, but there’s one at your workplace, check with your manager to see if it’s okay for you to use it for your personal paperwork. If not, there are several organizations throughout most communities that host “shred days” by partnering with firms that specialize in secure on-site shredding. Or you can purchase a pair of multi-cut scissors to shred your documents by hand.
Speaking of local shred days, grab your sensitive documents and join us Saturday, October 21, at our Chesterfield Township (Hall Road and I-94), Saline, Troy, or Warren branch offices from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
- To make the most of your shred experience and to ensure all members are given the opportunity to shred on this popular day, we ask that you limit your shred items to five boxes or bags.
- Please only shred paper containing sensitive items.
- An MSGCU team member will return your boxes to you after they have been emptied.
Security Stamp Rollers
Security stamps, or identity theft prevention stamp rollers, are another option to protect your personal information. Simply roll the stamp over any text you don’t want dumpster-diving criminals to see to make the text unreadable.
MSGCU members: head over to any MSGCU branch office on Member Appreciation Day, Thursday, October 19, for a free security stamp roller (while supplies last).
Reducing your documents to a pile of ash is a surefire (pun intended) way to destroy them. Use documents as kindling, or add them to a fireplace, wood-burning stove, or bonfire. You can add other scrap paper to the fire to confuse anyone who may be looking through the ashes for pieces of documents that may not have fully burned. Please check with your local municipality for any restrictions before burning.
A good soaking can render documents illegible. Simply immerse a stack of junk mail in a bucket of water before dumping it. Make sure to let it dry first so you can confirm any personal information is not readable.
Using these basic steps to destroy your personal documents can protect your information, and your finances. As a general rule, it is better to have as few physical documents on file as possible. Switch to online banking and opt-in to MSGCU eStatements instead of paper statements. Keeping your finances digital will help simplify going through the mail and help protect you from fraud.
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