Local Shredding Events Can Help Protect Your Identity

1 February 2016

For most Canadians, as soon as their garbage leaves their home it’s out of their lives completely, out of sight and out of mind. However, for identity thieves, the story only just begins when the trash hits the curb. ID thieves have long turned to garbage theft to snatch snippets of personal data and, despite the modern emphasis on protecting their identity online, it remains one of the most common ways people become victims of fraud.

The best way to thwart thieves looking through what you’ve thrown away is to run old, sensitive documents through a shredder before tossing them in the garbage. Cross-cut shredders are the most effective, turning paper into tiny, confetti-like squares instead of long strips, from which the most dedicated ID thieves could still glean information.

If you don’t have a shredder, don’t worry! Community shredding events make top-of-the-line shredders available to the public so that everyone can take advantage of this important identity theft protection measure. Here’s how they work: local or national organizations, such as the Alberta Motor Association or Capital One, often partner with shredding companies to bring their document destruction services to local communities so that residents can have their sensitive documents properly shredded and disposed of.

The best part? Some community shredding events require a nominal fee or donation, while others are completely free. The free events tend to promote a certain company’s services while informing the public on how shredding can boost identity protection to gain new clients.

Shredding events typically take place only annually or semiannually, so be sure to research when the next one in your area will be and stay up to date on its details so you can plan accordingly. Keep these guidelines in mind as you decide what to keep and what should hit the shredder. These lists are by no means exhaustive but can give you a sense for what types of documents should be kept at home and which you should bring along to be destroyed:

Shred

  • Year-old canceled cheques with no long-term tax significance
  • Old Social Insurance statements
  • Annual insurance policy statements
  • Receipts from card payments
  • Credit card and bank statements
  • Credit card contracts or loan agreements
  • Investment documentation
  • Paycheque stubs and bills

Do not shred

  • Birth and death certificates
  • Marriage license
  • Divorce certificate
  • Wills and powers of attorney
  • Social Insurance Cards
  • Business licenses
  • Insurance policies and claims
  • Legal documents
  • Mortgage documents

As a general guiding principle, never carelessly throw away any document that includes Social Insurance Numbers, birth dates, PIN numbers, passwords or signatures.

If you have concerns about protecting your identity, you can also invest in a credit monitoring service that can alert you to certain activity that may indicate fraud. This can prompt you to take action like obtaining a credit freeze.

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