Spring Cleaning Tips from the Douglas County District Attorney

Lawrence DADouglas County District Attorney
March 25, 2014

I wanted to share information with you about how to clear out those documents that may be cluttering up your home or work office.

March is the month where the long awaited season of spring returns to Kansas. With our brutal winter, I hope spring’s much anticipated mild weather quickly follows. Does the spring weather inspire in you the ritual of spring-cleaning and with it, the clearing of any accumulated clutter in your home? Would that spring-cleaning include the disposal of confidential and secure documents that have gathered over the winter or even over the past several years? If so, do you know what is safe to put into the trash or recycle bin and what really needs to be shredded? This may be especially true if you were one of the estimated 110 million victims of the recent Target security breach. That sting may still be fresh in your mind. You need to ensure when you toss out a document, you are not giving a would-be thief the exact information he needs to steal your identity.

Toward that goal, I recently came across some great tips and I want to share them with you. What are some examples of documents that need to be shredded?

● Old tax returns. You will want to check with your tax attorney or tax professional, but generally keeping three to four years of returns is sufficient. The Internal Revenue Service only audit back further than that if they believe fraud has been committed. Remember, this will not only keep your social security number safe, but those of any dependents that may be listed on your return.

● Bank statements and cancelled checks. Any documents with your bank account number(s) should be shredded. If you want to avoid shredding them in the future, consider going to an online statement. In addition, simply writing ‘void’ will not take care of your cancelled checks as your routing number and account number are listed on them and your address, phone number and other identifying information may also be listed.

● Credit Card Offers. Unless you want to take advantage of the offer, shred these unsolicited offers. Another thing to be aware of is the reality that identity theft can happen in families. Do not leave these offers lying around your home. The temptation could be too much.

● Old photo ID’s. While these may seem innocent enough, when combined with other personally identifying information, an identity thief can put these old photos to their nefarious use.

● Pay stubs. These often-unappreciated documents are left lying around and can be used to validate the amount of your last deposit, name the provider of your health insurance and list what bank accounts you have. Make certain these make it to the shredder.

● Convenience checks from your credit cards. These are another example of a typically unsolicited offer. If you do not plan to use these, they should immediately go to the shredder. If you already have some lying around the home, shred them now.

● Cancelled and expired credit cards. Cut through the magnetic strip and if the card is too thick to feed through your shredder, use scissors to cut the card into at least four pieces and dispose of the card in at least two separate trash bins.

If you do not have a personal shredder or do not have a place to shred your documents, Douglas County Bank will host its annual Shred Day in May. An exact day has not yet been scheduled, but check their website or Facebook page for updates. They will also accept electronic recycling, including the destruction of computer hard drives. Hard drives can be a real security risk and should always be destroyed before disposal. Because of how they must be recycled, expect a fee for some of the types of electronic recycling.

Best wishes on your spring-cleaning and I hope these tips ensure your confidential and secure documents are disposed of without risk of them landing in the wrong hands. As always, for general consumer protection information, please contact my consumer protection division at 785-330-2849. We are always ready to serve the citizens of Douglas County.

(Some of the information in this article came from MSN Money. This article is not intended to provide legal advice. Legal advice can only be provided in an attorney-client relationship. This information must not be relied on as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed attorney.)

Sincerely yours,
Charles E. Branson
Douglas County District Attorney


March 28, 2014 · admin · No Comments
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