The papers may have piled up during the winter months or you may be looking to clean out old tax records. Either way, state Division of Consumer Protection Administrator Sandy Chalmers says most of those old documents or bank statements are a potential gold mine for identity thieves.
Chalmers says anything with a name, address, social security number, date of birth or any other personal information can be used against you. Wisconsinites are being urged to shred any old records or even pre-approved credit card applications.
Chalmers says a lot of people are tempted to just tear it up by hand, but she says the potential financial gain of obtaining an identity is enough incentive for thieves to reconstruct those documents. She suggest using either a standard shredder that creates long strips of paper or a cross cutting shredder that breaks down documents into numerous pieces.
While cleaning out old files will bring up a large pile of old documents, Chalmers says you can stay ahead of the problem by keeping a shredder on hand when you open your mail. That way anything that does not need to be saved, such as a credit card application, can be destroyed promptly. Chalmers also suggests watching for community shredding events where large trucks are brought in to destroy entire boxes of documents.
AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:00)