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Spring Cleaning? Prevent ID Theft With These Consumer Safety Tips

Posted By Regan Zambri Long, PLLC || 26-Apr-2008

If you’ve considered a deep cleaning of your home this spring, you may also be wondering how best to eliminate the disorganization of another year’s worth of paperwork and financial records.  Simply throwing them in the trash is not always the safest solution.  According to the Better Business Bureau, 8.1 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2007, alone — and surprisingly, only about 12% of that ID theft occurred on-line.

Before you throw away that next pile (or even piece) of identifiable personal financial information, take a minute to scan these helpful tips, designed to help you prevent the headache and financial injury associated with ID theft:

  • "Canceled checks
    Canceled checks with no long-term significance for tax or other purposes can be destroyed after one year. However, canceled checks that support tax returns, such as charitable contributions or tax payments, should be held for at least seven years – long enough to cover the six-year tax assessment period. BBB advises that consumers indefinitely keep any canceled checks and related receipts or documents for a home purchase or sale, renovations or other improvements to owned property, and non-deductible contributions to an Individual Retirement Account.
  • Deposit, ATM, credit card and debit card receipts
    Consumers should save credit, debit, and ATM receipts until the transaction appears on their statement and they have verified that the information is accurate.
  • Credit card and bank account statements
    Credit card and bank account statements with no tax or other long-term significance can be discarded after a year; remaining statements should be kept for up to seven years. If a consumer receives a detailed annual statement, they should keep it and shred the corresponding monthly statements.
  • Credit card contracts and other loan agreements
    Credit card contracts and loan agreements should be kept for as long as the account is active in case the consumer has a dispute with their lender over the terms of the contract.
  • Documentation of a purchase or sale of stocks, bonds and other investments
    Investors should retain documentation of a purchase or sale for as long as they own the investment and then seven years beyond that time. Monthly retirement and monthly investment account statements can be shredded annually after being reconciled with the year-end statement.
  • Paycheck Stubs
    Paycheck stubs can be shredded yearly after the income has been reconciled with a W-2 or other tax forms.
  • Utility or monthly bills
    Monthly bills should be shredded the year after being received by the consumer. This way, if it’s a power bill, for example, consumers can compare this month’s bill to last year’s bill for any major changes before shredding it.
  • Shred-it Checklist – Don’t just toss it, shred it!
    • Documents that include Social Security numbers, birthdates, PIN numbers or passwords
    • Banking documents and other financial information
    • Leases, contracts or letters that include signatures
    • Pre-approved credit card applications
    • Medical or dental bills
    • Travel itineraries
    • Used airline tickets"

Previously on the DC Metro Area Personal Injury Law Blog, we have posted articles related to:

For information about your legal rights, please click here or call the law firm of Regan Zambri & Long, PLLC at 202-463-3030. 

Categories: Consumer Safety
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