Money Matters: Identity Theft

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Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Identity theft is on the rise and the crooks are finding all kinds of ways of stealing your personal information.

Matt Brownell of The Street says one of the ways you can protect your identity is by shredding; that way crooks can't go through your trash for important financial information. These are the documents that Matt says you should shred right now.

1. Old tax returns
As a general rule you should save tax returns in case you get audited. But after 3 years you're in the clear, unless of course the IRS suspects you are guilty of fraud. In that case, the feds can audit you as far back as they like. But keep 3 or 4 years of returns in a fire proof box.
2. Bank statements
Anything with bank numbers should be shredded. You may want to go paperless and do all your banking online, but shred those old statements up in the attic.
3. Credit card offers
Unless you're going to open a new account, shred these offers. Don't just tear them up. A crook can tape it back together, photo copy it and send it in under your name.
4. Old photo ID's
The information on an old driver's license could be used to verify an account, or that ID could be altered and used by someone else.
5. Pay stubs
It may not seem like it at first glace, but your pay stub is rife with information that can be used by a skilled identity thief.
6. Credit card convenience checks
If you don't plan on using those checks and you get with a new credit card, shred them right away.
7. Cancelled checks
Just because you write "void" on it doesn't mean a canceled check can't be a ticking time bomb. Remember your routing numbers are on the bottom of the check.
8. Cancelled credit cards
Cut through the magnetic stripe as there's encoded information there. If your shredder can't handle plastic, cut it into four pieces and divide up the pieces into different trash bags.

You can never be too careful in protecting your identity and financial information.

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