5 Documents You Should Be Shredding

15 September 2015

While cyber security and digital data protection have drawn a lot of attention lately, it’s important not to forget that one of the most common sources of identity theft is one that we willingly put on our curb every week. Disposing of sensitive mail or documents in the garbage without properly destroying them leaves you vulnerable to anyone looking through the trash with malicious intent. However, with a bit of vigilance and self-discipline, it can be easy to start a new habit that can keep you protected. Shredding personal and financial documents is an easy way for you to earn some peace of mind while still allowing you to get rid of your paperwork conveniently at home.

While many people associate paper shredders with accounting firms or businesses looking to hide something, they are actually the perfect tool for everyday residential use. Your home is likely full of documents containing sensitive information such as bank account and Social Insurance Numbers (SINs), which are just as important to protect as any business’s corporate data. For maximum protection, we recommend cross-cut shredders, which turn your documents into tiny squares that are far more difficult for the determined fraudster to reassemble than traditional shredders’ ribbon-like strips.

These cross-cut shredders can be relatively inexpensive, and can help you properly destroy a number of documents that are likely piling up in your home. In this post, we will discuss some of the most common household documents that should be shredded, rather than simply thrown in the trash.

  1. Pay stubs
    While their familiarity may make them seem innocuous, your pay stubs are full of information fraudsters find valuable. Although they might not contain your most sensitive financial details, experienced identity thieves can use the health insurance and bank account information on pay stubs to identify future targets for fraud, or simply to add context to information they gathered from somewhere else. To be safe, send your pay stubs through the shredder when you decide to get rid of them.
  2. Credit card convenience cheques
    Credit card convenience cheques, while uncommon, can be among the most damaging documents to put out on the curb in one piece. They may look like credit card bills, but convenience cheques are actually live loans. If you decide not to act on a convenience cheque, shred it immediately to protect your information.
  3. Duplicate cheques
    Writing “void” across a canceled cheque is a great habit to get into, but you should also be sending those cheques to the shredder. Remember, while voiding a cheque can prevent someone from filling it out, it takes a shredder to ensure no one lifts your name, address, phone number or bank account and routing numbers off a canceled cheque.
  4. Old tax returns
    In case you are audited, it is a good idea to hold onto your tax return documents for up to four years after filing them. However, after that period, you no longer need to keep them. Tax returns contain not only your own SIN, but also those of your dependents, making them especially important to dispose of properly.
  5. Bank statements
    Like all documents that list your bank account numbers, bank statements should see the inside of the shredder before being thrown away. If you have any old bank statements stored away, be sure to shred them too. Many bank statements used to include your SIN, so even if your bank information has changed since those records were printed, be extra careful before tossing them in the garbage for collection. In fact, the best way to keep your bank statements secure is to eliminate paper statements altogether, opting for email statements instead.

While a paper shredder is a great first line of defense against identity theft, they are best paired with credit monitoring services like Identity Guard that will monitor and alert you to certain types of activity that may indicate fraud.