We’re constantly told to be careful about what data we share online, so we might password protect everything, and have our privacy settings on social media as tight as possible. So why then, are many people happy to throw a bank statement in the bin for the world to see?
Personal information from documents like bank statements can be used by criminals to steal someone’s identity and apply for credit cards and other things in their name. The next thing they know, they’re getting demands for payment for a credit card they never took out.
But it’s not just bank statements, utility bills are proof of address, discarded birthday cards might give away a date of birth, and a password might be guessed by looking at magazines they’ve thrown away. Sometimes it can be that simple.
Worryingly, millions of people throw away documents containing their credit card or debit card numbers. If a criminal gets their hands on that, plus the card’s expiry date and your signature, they can make a purchase in your name. A report found that 19 million people had thrown away documents that would give someone more than enough information to steal their identity including driving licences, CVs, and phone and utility bills.
Be sensible and shred
Anything with sensitive information on should be shredded before it’s put in the bin. But what type of shredder will do the job for you?
Types of paper shredders
Strip cut shredder
These shredders cut papers into long, straight shreds. While this is better than throwing a whole document away, a determined criminal could piece the documents back together without too much difficulty.
Cross-cut or diamond cut shredder
These shredders cut paper crossways and lengthwise. This means that documents end up in much smaller chunks that would be very tricky to put back together.
This is the king of paper shredders. It chews paper up into tiny bits which look like confetti so it’s virtually impossible to reassemble a document. If the information you want to shred is very sensitive, go with this choice.
Before you buy
Before you invest in a shredder, think about what you’ll be shredding. Basic paper shredders will only be able to shred paper, but slightly more advanced (and expensive) shredders will be able to shred bank and credit cards. These models tend to have attachments for shredding plastics. The very best models will micro-cut or cross-cut cards instead of cutting them into strips where they can still be potentially pieced back together.
It’s worth thinking about how much you need to shred at once too. When you are browsing for a shredder, always look for the guidance on what is known as ‘sheets per pass.’ This refers to how many sheets of paper a shredder can deal with in one go. Cheaper shredders tend to have a limit or around four sheets, but the more advanced models can take 20 or more sheets at a time.