If you pull up any of your news feeds today, you will more than likely see at least one article or post about some sort of fraud, hack or an identity stolen. It’s just commonplace in this technological age, to the point where it doesn’t affect most people in their daily lives. But what if we brought that theft or fraudulent behavior down to a more localized spectrum? What if it happened to your neighbor, your company, your bank or even with your personal accounts? That would make anyone wake up and take notice! Protecting yourself and your family from identity theft or fraud should be at the top of your priority list, and if you’re properly protected, then you will have the knowhow to help others around you who may not be as aware of the dangers.
What’s Going On?
The statistics for personal identity theft and cyber crime are astounding. According to a Javelin’s 2018 Identity Fraud Report, there were 16.7 million victims of identity fraud in 2017 alone, breaking the record high number in the previous year. The amount stolen was over $16 billion, and, for the first time, there were more social security numbers exposed than credit card numbers, which shows that criminals are after personal identity information even more than hacking your credit cards and going on a shopping spree. Data breaches, where a large company or institution has their system hacked or their servers corrupted, happen the most today, leaving millions of people to deal with the ramifications. Precautions like microchips in your bank and credit cards help, but instead of trying harder to hack them, thieves are instead engaging in new account fraud, opening new cards or accounts in a victim’s name with just a few pieces of personal information. This, in turn, can ruin your financial standing, your credit, your ability to apply for or be approved for a loan, your medical information… anything attached to your SSN could be negatively affected.
So how does an identity thief procure your personal information, you ask? Sadly, in most general cases, the theft is easy, usually because of the sheer amount of information people post online via social media or unprotected websites. The Federal Trade Commission, because of the amount of complaints they receive, has concluded that the most common forms of identity theft are employment or tax related fraud, credit card fraud and phone or utilities fraud. In each of these situations, the thief uses someone’s personal information to get a job, to open a credit card or to establish a wireless phone or utility account. It sounds a bit far-fetched, but someone could be using your SSN or other PII (Personal Identifiable Information) to live their life.
But not everything is taken from the internet – you could be offering your personal information up on a silver platter with the types of paper documents you throw in your garbage can. Credit card applications, bills, subscription information, medical records, receipts, prescription bottles, financial documents, old tax records…and the list goes on. A lot of people think that having their identity stolen from out of their trash isn’t going to happen, but it’s not a chance you want to take. This is where proper document disposal comes into play. Here are the top 5 ways you can protect your family by ensuring your documents are securely destroyed:
- Get a good shredder.
It may sound like common sense, but most people don’t want to invest in a good, solid shredder for their home, thinking the cost isn’t worth it. But if your home shredder doesn’t do a quality job, a dumpster-diving thief wouldn’t have to do much to obtain some extremely confidential information. Some of the best shredders on the market are pretty pricey, but for a personal shredder, you should probably look at spending a little bit extra to make sure the shredder does everything you need it to do, even if that includes being able to shred more than just paper. You want to make sure the one you choose shreds in a cross-cut or a micro-cut, leaving no doubt that your stuff is thoroughly shredded.
- Shred EVERYTHING.
The list above is just the tip of the iceberg – if you ever question whether or not something should be shredded, you should almost always error on the side of caution. A good rule of thumb is to shred everything that comes in the mail with any of your PII on it that you don’t need (which is probably most of the mail you receive regularly). Other more important documents, like tax records, ATM receipts, or utility bills should be kept for a specific length of time, depending on the document. But once the time frame for securely storing the documents has lapsed, it’s time to clean out those filing cabinets and folders for a purge.
- Go paperless.
Any time you can stop receiving paper statements or bills in the mail, do it! Almost all financial institutions, utility companies, credit card companies, insurance agencies and medical facilities have options for paperless billing or electronic statements and receipts. It lessens the amount of paper you receive, helping you shred less.
- Destroy devices.
It’s not just about paper anymore – if you’re getting rid of an old device, you better make sure it’s either completely wiped or scrubbed, or that it’s securely destroyed so no one can access the information on it. Devices like smartphones, hard drives, jump drives, SD cards, SIM cards should all be reformatted, set to default or factory settings, or securely destroyed using a “sledgehammer”, or a shredder that destroys more than paper.
- When in doubt, talk to the professionals.
If you’re bombarded by a large amount of documents to be shredded, or you’re overwhelmed by the thought of trying to make sure you shred everything that should be shredded, don’t waste your time trying to find the right shredder or spending an inordinate amount of money to do it yourself. Contact a professional, fully compliant shredding service to handle your shredding needs. Most companies will work with your budget and your schedule to make sure your needs are met and that everything is securely destroyed.
Need Help With Shredding Services?
If you’re in the greater Birmingham or Huntsville, AL areas, and you need help with your shredding needs, contact us at Secure Destruction. We are a fully licensed and insured destruction company, and we can handle almost any type of destruction, including medical waste and device disposal. Call for a quick quote today!