10 Tips for Avoiding Identity Theft

Shred the Evidence
Shredding is good. Shredding both vertically and horizontally is better. ©iStock/Thinkstock

Any documents with your name, address, account numbers, social security number or even your phone number that you throw in your trash can put you at risk for identity theft. Items you want to shred instead of throwing away include, basically, anything that could be used to identify you:

  • Bank and other financial statements -- you won't have to worry about these if you sign up for electronically-delivered statements instead
  • All those credit card offers that come in the mail, including those blank convenience checks that come with your statement from time to time
  • Canceled checks and canceled credit and debit cards
  • Old pay stubs
  • Tax returns that are older than three to four years (you need to keep a few years in case the IRS audits you)
  • Old IDs such as your expired work ID or driver's license
  • Medical records, explanation of benefits, billing statements, and prescription information

The best shredder for the job is a cross-cut shredder because it creates confetti that's a puzzle no one will be able to put back together, but if you don't have one of your own it's likely your community holds a shredding event that you can take advantage of at least once a year.