I always thought the news stories about identity theft were overblown and probably sponsored by companies that sold paper shredders. Then, my husband's credit card number was stolen. Luckily, the credit card company was on top of things immediately. They noticed some unusual purchases, froze his account and called him to ask about the charges. Once they knew the charges were not his, they cancelled his card and issued a new number.
We're not entirely sure how the thief got my husband's credit card number, but he could have skimmed it when my husband made a purchase at a store. According to the Federal Trade Commision, skimming involves the use of a special storage device that a thief uses when processing your credit card. The card gets swiped like normal, but the important information is recorded and stored in the device, which the thief can access later.
In addition to skimming, many identity thefts involve dumpster diving. This is where clutter becomes a potential problem. If you are cleaning out old paperwork, bills, cancelled checks and other documents, you may be throwing your social security number and account numbers into a recycling bin that is easy for a thief to access.
If my husband's card number had never been stolen, I probably would have dumped my old paperwork in the recycle bin without a second thought. Now that I know how quickly identity theft can happen, I feel it's important to properly dispose of these things.
The Paper Shredder
Today, I used my new paper shredder and fifteen minutes to declutter and shred old paperwork. I've still got quite a bit to sort through and shred. But, I feel better knowing that I don't have to worry about someone lifting my social security number out of the recycle bin at the transfer station.
How about you? Do you take the time to shred old bank statements and papers with important numbers on them? Why or why not?