Editorial: Protect your trash from identity theft

Identity thieves don't just go after what's in your computers.

When we talk about identity theft, much of the focus these days is on people stealing our passwords and hacking our computers.

But despite how common it is for us to transmit sensitive information like Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, medical records and other information online, a tremendous amount of personal information is still done the old fashioned-way — on paper. 

According to AARP NY, someone’s identity is stolen every two seconds in this country, costing New Yorkers more than $65 million a year due to fraud.

While we might be more careful protecting a password or having internet privacy protection installed on our computers and phones, we’re not always so careful when we toss a piece of paper into the trash. We assume it’s gone.

But identity thieves don’t have to have sophisticated computer skills to get at your records.

They just have to be willing to hold their noses and go through garbage bags on the curb or in a landfill to get at your personal information, including anything with your personal signature on it.

But just as stealing information out of a trash bag is pretty easy and non-technical, so is preventing someone from doing it. It’s called a shredding machine. 

If they can’t read it, they can’t steal it.

But not everyone has a shredder. 

To help you along, AARP NY is hosting a series of 20 free document-shredding events around the state, including one in our area next month, as part of “Operation Stop Scams.”

The next one will be held Thursday, May 16, from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Sidney Albert Albany Jewish Community Center, located at 340 Whitehall Road in Albany. Another upstate event will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 11, in Kingston at Forsyth Park.

Just bring up to three grocery bags full of documents, and they’ll shred them for you for free.

AARP recommends shredding anything that might have a Social Security number, birth date, signature, account number, passwords or a PIN number. 

Also shred old bank records, credit card applications and credit card offers you get in the mail, unneeded medical bills, investment account statements and obsolete ID cards like expired driver’s licenses, passports and medical insurance cards.

If you can’t make the free shredding events, then at the very least be careful to otherwise destroy your paper documents in another way.

The saying goes that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.  Don’t let your trash become someone else’s treasure.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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