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Best Practices For Document Shredding At Home

September 30, 2016

Reducing the risk of identity theft

Document shredding is widely regarded as a great way to protect your identity. For those who think they should keep everything “just in case,” just remember that identity thieves can’t steal documents you have destroyed.

What You
Should Know

Documents stolen from your trash can lead to identity theft and take years to undo.

What You
Can Do

Immediately shred any documents with sensitive information if not needed long term.

Woman shredding documents to illustrate shredding documents safely

The following steps will help to ensure that you are keeping only the documents you really need to keep and getting rid of the rest in a way that makes it impossible for identity thieves to use. If you shred at home, make sure you use a cross-cut shredder.

Over half a billion personal records were lost or stolen in 2015.1

Documents you should save indefinitely

Keep the following important documents in a fireproof box, safe deposit box or home safe:

  • Birth and marriage certificates
  • College transcripts, diplomas
  • Credit card and loan agreements
  • Divorce decree and property agreements
  • Mortgage documents
  • Home inventory
  • Insurance policies
  • Passports (current only)
  • Pension plan & retirement plan documents
  • Social Security cards
  • Stock purchase agreements
  • Tax returns
  • Wills and living wills

Documents you can safely shred—eventually

  • Pay stubs – Shred them only after checking them against your W-2.
  • Home improvement receipts – Keep these until you sell your home since certain expenses may reduce your capital gains tax and they will provide a record of the work that has been done while you lived there.
  • Other tax records – Wait seven years before shredding. Why? While the IRS usually has three years to audit you, it has up to seven years under certain circumstances. (If you’re unsure what tax records to keep, consult an accountant or call IRS Taxpayer Assistance at 800-829-1040.)
  • Bank records – After one year, shred bank statements, pay stubs, and medical bills (unless you have an unresolved insurance dispute).
  • Warranty cards, instructions and receipts for high-ticket items for as long as you own the item.

Documents you can shred at will

  • Bills – After paying credit card or utility bills, shred them immediately.
  • Receipts – Shred your sales receipts, unless you need them for related warranties, taxes, or insurance purposes.
  • Credit card, debit card and ATM receipts – Shred after you have checked the transactions against your monthly statements.
  • Health plan statements – (Unless you have an unresolved billing dispute)
  • Anything with PII – documents that bears your signature, credit account number, phone or cell phone number, social security number (SSN), that you do not need to save for legal, warranty, or insurance reasons.
  • Offers from financial services companies like credit card companies.
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