To Shred or Not to Shred…..*

To Shred or Not to Shred…..*

Many businesses and even households are going paperless by storing documents on CDs or DVDs. What to do with the old paperwork?

The questions arises, do I have to shred everything? Some businesses have so much paperwork that they have to hire these mobile shredding trucks to come out and just mulch it all up en masse rather than stand there feeding each piece of paper into the loud shredder which inevitably jams on the 6th inserted document. Is this really necessary?

Actually, the reason to shred is pretty obvious: it’s to prevent identity theft. I’m sure somewhere in the world there are creeps going through dumpsters to find as much information as they can to steal that name based on other information they uncovered to flesh out a false identity.

There are certain things that are never going to be private about you, mainly your name and probably your address if you’re a property owner. What you don’t have to shred and can feel safe in tossing in the trash are things like: Routine junk mail that merely identifies your name and address, old utility bills, old personal papers to and from Aunt Millie, old photos, correspondences from businesses that don’t identify your date of birth or social security number, letters from professionals like your lawyer or CPA if they’re free of specific identifiers, etc. Use your good common sense, but just know if you toss something in the trash from this category, you’re most likely just fine. This world produces tons of garbage every day and the chances of your identity being stolen from this stuff would be exceedingly rare – it would be like stealing an identity from a phone book (if they still existed). But in some households, this could be the bulk of what you have lying around and there’s no need to stand around shredding each and every envelope and yellowed paper that you have in that pile or that drawer.

Now, what should be shredded? Really, everything else: Credit card statements, old credit cards, medical records, all tax information/statements, legal documents, resumes, investment information, any copies of your marriage, divorce or birth certificates. It’s any document that fleshes you out as a consumer with information of a personal nature.

Is there anything I really need to keep? Yes! Important original documents like marriage certificates, divorce decrees, death certificates, birth certificates, passports, social security cards, all titles to cars/vehicles, all deeds to properties, title insurance policies. These should never be tossed or shredded.

However, if you’re inclined to just shred everything regardless, one gigantic pitch for professional shredding companies is that the product of their efforts are used in recycling 100%, whereas stuff you personally shred or throw in your garbage is going directly to some landfill.

*One notable exception is lawyers and law firms must shred everything in a client file. No records may be tossed into the trash. Here the evil is not only identity theft, but also client confidentiality which must be maintained at all levels and at all costs.

Image credit: loganban / 123RF Stock Photo

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