Many people don’t know this, but the trash you have thrown out can be legally claimed by anyone who wants it, and that includes your utility bills, expired IDs, personal letters, and anything with your name and address on it. Why would anyone need any of these things? Why, because your personal details, such as your name and home address, as well as your ID number or partial bank account details, may be on it, and all this personal information can and is routinely exploited by scammers for all sorts of illegal purposes. In order to protect your privacy and identity, you must always run these seemingly useless papers through the shredder before throwing them out.
1. Plane Tickets
Both printed and virtual boarding passes to plains, trains, and other forms of transportation often contain plenty of your personal information, including your name, travel destination, and frequent flyer number, if you have one. Scammers can often use this information to log in to your frequent flyer account and see your upcoming trips or even cancel those if they want. So, always make sure to shred any paper tickets and never share files or screenshots of your virtual passes with anyone, let alone post pictures of these on social media.
2. Doctor’s Prescriptions
Prescription notes and even bottles of prescription medication can contain enough information on them for scammers to steal your identity. These often have your name, the prescription medication, and date it was issued, which could also allow thieves to refill your prescription instead of you, so make sure to shred any papers or draw over your personal details with a black marker pen to avoid issues.
3. Receipts and Utility Bills
Another often-dismissed document you must always rip apart before tossing in the wastebasket is receipts. As benign as a receipt may seem, these papers often list the last digits of your card number, your signature, and other personal information that can be used to infiltrate your bank account. In addition, these documents may also give scammers the opportunity to file a return for your purchase. To avoid the problem of collecting and keeping track of every single receipt, you can also opt for digital receipts were available instead.
4. Vet Receipts and Pet’s Documents
Do you think a receipt or any non-essential document or prescription you receive at the vet is safe to throw directly in the trash? if so, think again, as it turns out that all of these documents contain your pet’s name, which is the most common password choice according to a Google Survey looking at the passwords of 2,000 participants. If your personal password doesn’t match with your pet’s name, throwing these in the trash without shredding is fine.
5. Old or Spare Copies of Resumes
Your resume is a documented history of your education and work experience, and also typically contains your address and personal details, such as your phone number and name. As you can imagine, this is plenty of information to work with for scammers who want to gain access to your bank account or want to steal your identity.
6. Baby Shower Invitations and the Like
It may take you by surprise, but the majority of stolen identities do not belong to adults – the main target for these thieves and scammers are newborns and deceased individuals. As horrible as it may sound, millions of deceased Americans “collect” refunds for tax returns, get loans, and get exploited financially after their death every year. Newborns, too, are twice as likely to be stolen from than adults.
Thus, never throw out any extra copies for baby showers or funeral pamphlets directly into the trash, as these typically contain details like the person’s name, the names of close family members, age, birthday, etc., that can be easily exploited if they get in the wrong hands. The same applies to a child’s school-related mail or medical records.
7. Junk Mail and Envelopes of Letters Addressed to You
Junk mail, such as pre-authorized credit card offers and mail from insurance companies and lenders are a gold mine for people who want to make money on your sorrow. Instead of throwing these letters directly into the trash, you must always shred them beforehand, including the envelopes they come in. And while you may think that your name and address isn’t enough for identity thieves to steal your identity, it actually may be.
For example, the United States Postal Service (USPS) doesn’t require any ID if you decide to update your address to a new one via mail. People typically use this service when moving, but scammers can use it to redirect all your future mail to an address they have access to and exploit the mail you receive to get more personal information from you and ultimately steal your identity. Thus, the more mail your shred, the better.
The bottom line is that, in this world of online banking and the ability to do pretty much any legal action virtually, you must protect your personal details as much as you possibly can. Thus, run all your mail, every trace of your name and address through the shredder before you decide to get rid of them to prevent dire consequences.