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paper shredders
Posted on February 25, 2015 by in Identity & Privacy, Personal

Do you own a paper shredder? If not, make it a (slightly late) New Year’s resolution to pick one up for safe document disposal.

We’ve previously highlighted document disposal as one of the top ways to prevent identity theft, since the tactic can shut down a paper trail that might fall into the wrong hands. It’s relatively easy for an identity thief to use ATM slips, bank statements, credit card receipts and other documents to create a profile of you, especially if you simply throw away old papers without destroying them. All it takes is a little rummaging through your garbage can or recycling bin.

If you’re ready to take action, here are some key points to keep in mind when choosing a shredder.

  • Know your cuts. Shredders typically come in four different types, listed here from least secure to most secure: strip-cut, cross-cut, particle-cut and grinder. The strip-cut will cut paper into even, rectangular strips, which can be pieced back together with some effort. Cross-cut and particle-cut shredders cut paper a second time into different shapes like diamonds, squares or circles. Grinders are true to their name, annihilating your paper into particles so small they could fall through a mesh screen. When looking to choose a shredder, opt for the highest level available within your budget.
  • Think beyond paper. It’s beneficial to choose a shredder that can shred plastic as well as paper. This might involve old credit cards, driver’s licenses and ID cards. Some shredders can deal with CDs and DVDs, which is helpful if you have information stored in that format. Consider a shredder that can at least handle staples, because having to remove those before shredding can be time consuming otherwise. 
  • Shop now. According to a paper shredder buying guide from Consumer Reports, the best time to buy a shredder is from fall through spring tax season, since that’s when most retailers have shredders on sale. Also, some retailers will give you credit for old shredders, if you decide to trade in for a better or newer model.

Of course, if you have years — maybe even decades — of old documents that need to be destroyed, it may seem overwhelming and time-consuming to feed them into a shredder. In that case, research some local shredding companies and call for estimates. Many of these companies have mobile shredder trucks that come to your house or office, making them particularly convenient.

But whether they come to you or you bring your documents to their location, be sure to watch the shredding process. If a company rep says that’s against the rules, find another shredder — reputable firms always let you observe the shred.

Most of all, commit to choosing a shredding process that works for you, since document destruction is one of the best ways to prevent identity theft.

Image courtesy of Flickr user rosemary.