If you’ve never encountered some form of identity theft before, you must be lucky. In 2018, there were 444,602 cases of identity fraud, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Today, cybercrime is on the rise, and thieves find it easier to hack personal data than the company’s database.
Once they access your old mail, including credit cards and debit cards, hacking your data is a no brainer. For the most part, bank statements, debit card statements, and any other credentials that contain your personal details should be disposed of properly, according to the PNC chief security. When you dispose of your financial documents into the trash can, chances are that your identity will be stolen.
And what do identity thieves need to conduct cybercrime? Your full credentials – name and address. More often, they will acquire this information from your utility bills. Sadly, it will take a while before you can retrieve your personal details from identity theft. That said, below are some of the proper paper disposal practices to help prevent identity theft.
How Can I Dispose of Old Bank Statements Without a Shredder?
1. Pulp Them
Although it’s a labor-intensive way of disposal, pulping is the most effective way to eliminate sensitive credentials, including bank statements.
For a successful pulping, you’ll need bleach and a bleach-resistant trash can. Into the trash can, add half a litre of bleach, and let it rest for a while. Bleach enhances the paper breakdown and eliminates ink, so it’ll ultimately render your sensitive documents unreadable. However, bleach can be harsh to the skin, so avoid skin contact while handling the bleach. Meanwhile, work in a well-ventilated area to prevent respiratory problems.
Again, into the trash can, add five litres of water to dilute the bleach. Add your documents to the diluted mixture, making sure they are completely submerged. You may be prompted to work in batches if you have a high volume of papers. Alternatively, you can add more bleach into the water for efficiency.
Because bleaches are harsh to the skin, putting on protective gloves is necessary. You can also use a long stick or any other tool as long it’s bleach-resistant to submerge the documents into the bleach.
Once the papers are entirely immersed, let the diluted bleach mix set for 24 hours. Use an electric mixer like a paint turbine to convert the document into a pulp. Keep checking for a perfect blend.
Well done! Your documents should now be ready for disposal. Make sure that the pulp has dried completely before putting it in a trash can for pickup. You can also utilize the paper pulp for compost.
2. Shred Them by Hand
Again, shredding by hand, is a labor-intensive means of disposal. While this method seems more straightforward, it’s not as secure as the other methods. However, it’s the most common method used by many.
If you opt for this method, make sure to destroy sensitive parts of the document by tearing into tiny pieces. Also, it would be best to dispose of the small pieces into the trash can. Doing so will mean minimal chances of someone collecting all the parts of a single document.
Some people also use this method to get rid of old credit cards, but different trash cans to dispose of the various pieces. For example, you may put one piece in the kitchen trash and the other piece in the bathroom bin.
3. Burn Them
More often, people will resort to this method. However, burning isn’t the ultimate way to eliminate physical documents. But, if you build a regular fire to your paper documents, rest assured that it will eradicate them.
Occasional burning won’t destroy your paper credentials for good due to an inadequate supply of air between the sheets to keep the fire burning. Not only does regular burning imply to batches of papers but also single sheets. In most cases, a single sheet will be blown away before all the essential details on it burns up.
That said, a fire pit or a gas stove will go a long way into eliminating all the sensitive information on your paper documents. All you need to do is insert them in between the wood to burn without any hassle.
4. Shred Them During on a Public Shred Day
Unsurprisingly, local businesses offer shred days as a service to their local customers. Inquire from your bank or a local recycling company to see if such services are available.
Often, this service is offered for free, so if you’re patient enough to store your sensitive documents for long periods, this option might be worth considering.
Apart from being cost-effective, this shredding service is top-notch. Not only will they shred your paper documents into tiny pieces, but they will also mix them in more significant batches than you’d have done at home.
5. Pay for a Shredding Service
If your disposal option is shredding, but you don’t have a shredder at home, worry not because you can always pay for a shredding service. More often, this works as an alternative to shredding at home.
Check with your local store to see if such services are available. If not, tons of recycling centers will do this for you at an affordable price. Opting for a local shredding service rather than home shredding will save you a lot of money because they charge based on the volume.
Is It Safe to Dispose of Bank Statements?
NO, you should shred sensitive documents instead of throwing them away, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Sensitive documents can range anywhere from bank statements all to credit and debit cards.
Can I Shred Bank Statements?
YES, shredding is the ultimate means of disposal for sensitive documents. Most research suggests that shredding of documents should be done after seven years at most. After paying for utility bills, make sure to shred the receipts immediately.
Also, shred sales receipts if not related to warranties, insurance, or taxes. Meanwhile, you can shred bank statements and medical bills documents after one year.
By destroying sensitive documents, you’ll be reducing identity theft cases. If the documents are no longer useful, please destroy them to secure your personal information from cybercrime.
Are Bank Statements Worth Keeping for Taxes?
YES. It’s always recommended to keep bank statements either in hard copy or soft copy for at least one year, after which you can decide whether or not you should shred them. For tax-related documents, keep them for at least three years for future proof.
In the tax filing case, the IRS may ask for supporting documentation that dates three to seven years after filing for a return. Such may include Forms W-2 and 1099, bank statements, and charitable donation receipts, dating three to seven years.
How Long Should I Keep Canceled Cheques and Bank Statements?
7 years. According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the most extended period you should keep canceled cheques and bank statements are seven years. This will help enhance your tax rates.
If the canceled cheque or bank statement isn’t IRS-related, shred it after one year. But, you may still want to keep cheques or statements relating to liability purchased, such as your house. The same is especially true for cheques written for home improvement, which might go a long way if you sell the house.
5 Smart Ways to Dispose of Sensitive Documents
Confidential documents are critical, and you need to find the best possible ways to dispose of them. This section will be walking you through some of the safest ways to dispose of sensitive documents.
1. Shredding Your Documents
Shredding is by far the most preferred method of disposing of sensitive documents at workplaces and at home. Shredding documents will also be most effective if you have many sensitive documents you no longer want to use.
Now, most people choose to shred their most sensitive documents because they want to make these documents unreadable to those who may wish to use this information for selfish gains. Additionally, using shredders is an excellent way to make sure anyone cannot recollect the pieces to read the document. Many people always mix up the papers once they are shredded so that anyone would find it hard to reconstruct the papers.
Shredding is approved by the HIPAA as one of the safest ways to dispose of any sensitive document, so don’t be afraid to shred any sensitive documents you no longer want to use. Besides, shredding is environment-friendly, and shredded papers can be recycled and made useful in other sectors.
2. Cutting Up the Documents
Now, you might not have very many sensitive documents that you want to destroy in some cases. As such, you may not need a paper shredder to do this simple task. Instead, you might opt to cut up the documents then throw them somewhere safe.
However, you should be very careful not to allow anything to be readable if you choose to cut the document. Cut them into tiny pieces and make sure that you have mixed them up to confuse anyone who might want to reconstruct the papers and have a read. For example, you might want to cut the document’s sensitive areas, such as areas that contain bank details, SSN, among others.
Just like in any other way of destroying your sensitive document, the rule of them never gives anyone a chance to reconstruct the papers. Do everything possible by making sure that the writings are entirely destroyed. Until this is achieved, your sensitive information is safe, and you wouldn’t worry about your privacy.
3. Burning Documents
Burning your documents is another way to make sure that nobody else gets access to your sensitive information. It’s one of the sure-fire ways that nobody will reconstruct the ashes to read through what was in the document.
Burning documents is a good bet, but some states have restrictions, which is why you need to confirm the requirements in your state. If you are not sure, visit your state’s offices and inquire before you can burn any sensitive documents.
If you have planned to burn a bunch of sensitive documents, you will need an incinerator big enough to accommodate the volume. It will take some time for all the passes to burn, but worth it. Be patient and make sure that all the papers are burnt completely. This method is also approved by the HISAA, but you will still need to confirm with your state.
4. Soaking Paper
If you don’t want to try any of the above methods, try soaking your sensitive documents in water for a few days to completely render it useless. Soaking will wipe out the writings, and the Paper will also break, making it difficult for anyone to read through it. Like any other method, you must ensure that nobody can reconstruct the wordings.
This method effectively disposes of your bank statement or any other sensitive document, but you won’t be able to recycle them. For this reason, most people don’t use this method. However, that doesn’t mean that this method shouldn’t be leveraged; it should because it is very effective. The only shortcoming is that you can’t recycle the papers.
5. Hiring a Company
Finally, you can hire a company to help you dispose of your sensitive documents. We know this can feel uncomfortable, but these companies are professionals in handling your documents with a lot of care. However, if you feel that your information is susceptible, skip this method.
Reputable companies created to do this kind of work will destroy your sensitive documents without leaking any information, so you need to trust them on this. If you still feel uncomfortable, make sure that you ask the company about their privacy policies, so you can be assured of suing them if anything happens.