What Documents To Shred: These 3 Highly Sensitive Kinds Of Documents Should Be Shredded ASAP

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Are you leaving yourself vulnerable to identity theft and security attacks? Protect yourself by finding out what documents to shred here.

When you think of protecting yourself from identity theft, the first things that come to mind may be being on guard against online scams and phishing attacks. But did you know that your paperwork could be the very thing that’s putting you at risk?

Identity theft poses a very strong case for going paperless, so if you have the option to go digital securely, do so. But if you still have a bunch of confidential paperwork lying around, be aware that if they fall into the wrong hands, that could spell disaster.

What Documents Need To Be Shredded

To help you declutter and stay secure, here are the kinds of documents that you should shred.

1. Anything that contains your financial information

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This is an obvious target for identity thieves, and while you might need some of them for documentation purposes, you shouldn’t risk keeping them around for too long. According to CreditCards.com, this is the amount of time you should keep your documents before throwing them away. We recommend doing more than that and tossing them in the shredder.

Credit card statements

What documents to shred can be tricky when it comes to credit card statements. Unless you made a tax-related transaction and these statements are your only record, you should shred your credit card statements immediately after you’ve checked them for accuracy. And if you happen to need a past statement that you’ve already shredded, your bank probably has them archived online.

Bank statements

Because these serve as proof of income and are used for tax purposes, you should keep monthly statements for a year, and annual statements related to taxes for a minimum of seven years. You should keep them in a secure place—like a safe deposit box. And after you no longer need them, shred them.

Pay stubs

You should hold onto your paycheck stubs for a year, and then after you’ve checked your annual tax statement against them for accuracy, you can go ahead and shred them.

Old tax returns

You should keep these around for about five years; but after that, it’s best to shred these sensitive documents.

2. Anything with your personal information

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This includes your full name, your birthday, address, driver’s license number, passport number, and so forth. Some documents you should be careful with are:

Old IDs

We totally understand that you might want to hold onto these for sentimental reasons (heaven forbid that you forget how crazy your hair looked seven years ago), but having these just lying around can make you an easy target. If you really want to keep them, stash them somewhere safe. Otherwise, to the shredder they go.

Used airline tickets or boarding passes

You might not think of these as particularly sensitive, but airline tickets and boarding passes usually have barcodes that can contain sensitive information. According to this Inc. article, anyone with the barcode can easily access your name, frequent flyer number, phone number, and future travel plans with that airline.

Old medical records

These contain highly sensitive information, so once your records are no longer useful, you should shred them.

Bills

The 'what documents to shred' list will always have bills taking an important spot. Your utility bills, cell phone bills, and so forth all contain your personal information, so the sooner you get rid of them, the better. If you ever need to backtrack, most providers keep online records of your payments.

3. Junk mail

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Most of us almost immediately throw junk mail in the trash, but according to experts, you should do a lot more than that and make sure that they’re 100% destroyed.

Similar to airline tickets, most junk mail comes with barcodes that may contain your information. A lot of junk mail consists of credit card applications and pre-approved loans, so simply throwing them out can leave you vulnerable to identity theft.

You may now have an answer to what documents to shred. Shredding these documents does take more effort than simply throwing them in the trash, but when your security is on the line, it just makes sense to be vigilant.

READ: 3 Crucial Things You Must Do To Prevent Credit Card Fraud And Identity Theft