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Financial Records : Be Careful Where You Toss Them!

As we are rounding the corner of the first decade in the 21st century, the term Identity Theft has unfortunately, become a household name. Thieves are finding new ways to use and abuse stolen financial data, often creating nightmares for their victims, who must spend countless hours repairing the damage.

While identity thieves have expanded their repertoire to include medical records, pay stubs, and even school records, financial data is still the most coveted and sought out data by identity thieves. Financial data includes your credit card receipts or statements, bank statements, tax related documents, as well as retirement/IRA and brokerage records and house records (such as mortgage and property tax statements). Even in this technological age, it seems we are still swimming in paperwork, and eventually it must be tossed. Knowing what to toss and when can be tricky for most consumers.

Generally, financial experts advise to keep credit utility and other household bills only until you receive the cancelled check. Credit card statements should be kept longer - about seven years (though receipts only need to be kept until your monthly statement comes and is reconciled). It is advised to keep paycheck stubs only until your end of year tax statements come, and bank records can also be tossed after one year. Other financial paperwork, such as IRA, retirement statements, and house records (deeds, titles, etc) should be kept permanently.

So what is a conscientious consumer to do with all of those old financial statements containing such dangerously identifying data?

Shredding your old financial records is an excellent way to protect yourself from identity theft. One of the most popular ways for identity thieves to get your personal information is through "Dumpster Diving", in which crooks rummage through trash bins looking for papers with personal information on it. By shredding your old financial records with a good quality shredder, you are completely eliminating the threat of dumpster divers.

Small businesses and corporations typically produce a large volume of paperwork with sensitive data, and professional shredding companies are becoming more and more popular. A professional shredding service allows the business owner to easily and safely get rid of their unneeded financial paperwork, and the service is usually very cost efficient.

There is no doubt that identity thieves are here to stay. The good news is you do have ways to protect yourself. Being diligent with where and how you get rid of your financial records is one excellent way to keep your identity safe.


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