Remember that when you put your trash out on the sidewalk or in a Dumpster, it’s not yours anymore. Anyone can take anything from it. When you throw out personal papers, imagine you’re handing them to a stranger. If you wouldn’t give a stranger legible personal information, don’t throw it out in that condition, either. Here are some tips from the local E-13 Police and other sources:
• You need to shred any documents that contain: credit card numbers; account numbers; passwords; Social Security numbers; and/or dates of births.
• A mechanical shredder is the best option. They are available at office supply stores starting at about $20.
• If you don’t have a shredder, cut or tear papers into the smallest possible pieces, so none of the information is legible. Just ripping a document in half doesn’t help.
• It’s OK to recycle shredded documents. As long as the remains are illegible, it doesn’t matter how you dispose of them after that.
• Make sure old credit cards get cut up into small pieces. Small shredders can’t handle them, but larger models can.
• Call 911 if you see someone going through your trash. The police may be able to scare away an identity thief. Some people who pick through trash are not criminals, such as homeless people collecting bottles for recycling. But when in doubt, call it in.