Junk credit card offers, finger paintings, medical bills, mother’s day cards, school lunch menu, spreadsheets, utility bills….Oh, hi! Don’t mind me, I’m just sorting through a pile of papers and mail that accumulates on our kitchen table. Once in a great while, I get everything sorted and my table is clean and functions as it is supposed to, which normally is a place to eat. But, the day to day hustle and bustle takes over and the kitchen table becomes the easiest place to pile anything and everything. Although this seems harmless, it actually can be a dangerous habit. I recently read a story where a family’s home was broken into while they were gone. Not only did the thieves steal valuables from the home, but they stole paperwork and bills that were laying on the family’s kitchen counter and later used them to steal their identity and cause even more harm financially. This story caused me to look up over the top of my iPad where I was reading it, and out over the vast sea of papers cascading over my kitchen table. What would happen if someone broke into our home and did this to us? Even if I threw them away, what if they dug through the trash? How can I better protect my family and our identity?
No, I don’t mean the villain from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, although I bet her never has a problem getting his identity stolen! 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 management to know if it’s OK for you to use it for 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 documents by hand.
Expired credit cards are still critical and need to be disposed of properly. Rubbing a magnet across the card a few times will disable the magnetic strip on the back. You should also cut the card into pieces, making sure that each set of four numbers is cut in at least two places. Then smash the chip (if applicable) and dispose of the pieces in a different garbage bags.
Kill it With Fire!
Ok, even though this is what I shout every time I see a spider, it’s not advisable to take a flame thrower to your kitchen table full of documents. Using documents as kindling, or adding them to a fireplace, wood-burning stove, or bonfire are good ways to dispose of any documents that could potentially be used to steal your identity.
I see a theme emerging. A good soaking will render any document illegible. Simply immerse a stack of junk mail in a tub filled with water before disposing of it. You can even tear the documents up after soaking to make them even more illegible.
This option is more time consuming, but it can be a great rainy day activity, especially for kids who like to destroy things! If only a small area of a document contains sensitive information, hole punching that area will make the document useless, and you’ll get lots of homemade confetti.
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 out of paper statements. Keeping your finances digital will help simplify your daily chores and help protect your from fraud. Lucky for us, Afena is having their annual Shred Day on Saturday, June 3rd and the entire community can bring documents to be shredded for FREE! I’m going to get back to sorting out this kitchen table, and enjoy peace of mind knowing I can have these documents shredded securely and our identity is protected. I’m Claire, the Afena blog mom. Thanks for reading!