I feel like I’ve been on a security kick this week, but I thought this would be helpful since January is traditionally a time to clean up and organize!
Identity theft is a huge problem, and it is compounded by the ease of stealing an identity through carelessly discarded documents. As ludicrous as it may sound, trash bins are becoming a popular spot for clever thieves seeking a new line of credit at another person’s expense. Fortunately, paper shredders have become a common household item that will easily resolve this problem. But choosing the right shredder is a little more involved than you may think.
Get A Paper Shredder
The most affordable shredders will slice a single line down the center of a page, cutting the two halves apart quickly. While this may be the most cost effective option, it is certainly not as practical. A single tear in your latest phone bill or credit card statement will not be enough to deter identity thieves; it will simply make them work a little longer. The most sensitive information typically occupies a small portion of the page anyways, so a thief sorting through your garbage may not even need to pair the halves. If you want real protection for you and your family, a more sophisticated (and yes, expensive) solution is necessary.
Most popular paper shredders tear your important documents into dozens of small strips with little effort required on your part. Simply give the page a little start by inserting it in the upper portion of the shredder and let the electronic blades take care of the rest. Not only will this make it nearly impossible for prying eyes to gather your sensitive information, it also allows you to safely discard stacks of documents quickly. For a little additional security, you may also want to spend a few seconds shuffling the strips around before placing them in different bags.
Get A Good Paper Shredder
For the ultimate level of protection, cross cut paper shredders are the best choice. These innovative devices slice pages into small square particles, eliminating any chance identity thieves may have of re-assembling the pieces back together. No other shredder offers the same level of protection. However, these are typically the most expensive choices. Some also allow larger squares than others and could still be useful to criminals. So if one of these shredders seems unusually cheap, a lack of real security could be the reason.
Since you are usually starting to get organized for tax time, now is a great time to think about getting a shredder to avoid identity theft.
Readers, what are your thoughts on college identity theft?
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him here and here.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.