Data breaches, tech support scams and identity theft via unsecured documents mean that protecting personal information is more important than ever. Better Business Bureau’s “Shred Day” offers a way to dispose of sensitive materials.
This year’s Shred Day is Saturday, April 18, at Saint Louis Galleria, Interstate 64 and Brentwood Boulevard; and Schnucks in Edwardsville, 2222 Troy Road.
Consumers can shred up to three boxes of documents from 8 a.m. to noon. BBB asks that consumers use bags or boxes that can be shredded along with papers. Consumers will receive information on identity theft protection.
Shred-It, a Securit company, is donating the shredding service.
“Shredding outdated documents can limit your exposure to ID theft,” said Michelle L. Corey, BBB president and CEO. “Today more than ever, consumers need to protect themselves.”
The Federal Trade Commission said Missouri consumers last year filed 38,499 complaints about identity theft, fraud and other issues. Illinois consumers filed 73,355 complaints. St. Louis ranked third among metropolitan areas nationwide in identity theft last year, with 5,724 complaints, or about 204 per 100,000 residents. Missouri ranked fourth in the number of identity theft complaints per 100,000 residents with 118.7, and Illinois ranked 12th with 95.6.
Officials recommend shredding documents that contain financial information, account numbers, PINs, birth dates, or Social Security numbers. Examples include expired ID cards, legal documents, credit card and bank statements and canceled checks.
In addition to shredding outdated or unneeded documents, BBB has 10 steps you can take to protect your identity:
- Shred statements and applications you get in the mail that you don’t want to keep. These include credit card applications, insurance forms, financial statements, health forms, billing statements from utilities and phone service.
- Cut up expired credit and debit cards. Make sure you cut through the numbers.
- Protect your Social Security number, all account numbers and passwords. Don’t carry these numbers in your wallet. Give out personal identifiers only when absolutely necessary. Beware of unsolicited emails and phone calls if someone asks for the numbers.
- Secure personal documents at home. If you have roommates, employ outside help or have contractors in your home, make sure personal documents are in a safe place — preferably under lock and key — and not lying out in plain sight.
- Minimize personal information printed on checks. You don’t need to include your Social Security number, driver’s license or phone number.
- Monitor bank and credit card accounts for unauthorized transactions. Crooks may start with small transactions to see if you notice.
- Pay attention to billing cycles. If bills don’t arrive on time, follow up with your creditors.
- Don’t create obvious passwords. Avoid using your birth date, child’s name or birth date, mother’s maiden name or the last four digits of your Social Security number.
- If you conduct business online, use your own computer and a secure Internet connection. A public computer or public wi-fi networks are less secure.
- Never use email to communicate sensitive personal information. Don’t respond to emails asking to verify your personal information and identifiers. Neither your bank, credit card company, online payment system nor the IRS will call or email asking you for confidential information. They already have it.
For more information on identity protection or to check out a BBB Business Review or charity report, contact BBB at www.bbb.org or (314) 645-3300.