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When To Shred Personal Documents

When To Shred Personal Documents

Summary: There are certain types of documents that are very sensitive and contain information that you don’t want others to see. When you’re done with them, should you just toss them in the trash? Or have them shredded? This article will help answer that important question.

How do you know what happens to your documents when you put a piece of paper in the trash? It can be difficult to know who is seeing it and what they are doing with it. It isn’t very common to burn trash anymore; therefore you can be sure that your paper garbage or recycling is likely to pass through several hands on its way to a landfill or recycling center.

Important documents – including anything to do with your financial information or anything relating to the purchase or sale of a home – should be discarded of carefully so they don’t get into the wrong hands. Here are some tips to follow.

Step-By-Step, Your Documents Can Get Pilfered

Every step that occurs once the trash leaves your control has risk that someone will find personal information they can use to cause you harm. One way to safeguard personal information is to shred it before it goes into the trash.

Shredding devices are available at most office supply stores. Cross-cut shredders provide more security than strip-cut shredders. You may want to consider one depending on your level of concern. Shredding services or shredding events are often offered by financial institutions or community organizations.

Properly destroying sensitive personal information, such as that contained within documents that pertain to a recent home purchase, is a key step in helping to keep your identity secure. You really should shred any documents containing personal information, but be cautious not to shred financial documents that you may still need.

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To Shred Or Not To Shred, That Is The Question…Or Maybe It’s When To Shred

The Better Business Bureau offers these guidelines on when to shred:

  • Deposit, ATM, credit, and debit card receipts can be shredded once the transaction appears on your statement
  • Canceled checks, credit card statements, and bank statements with no long-term significance can go through the shredder after one year; if used to support tax returns, keep them for seven years
  • Monthly bill statements can be shredded one year after receiving, to allow for year-to-year bill comparisons (another good way to monitor your budget!)
  • Credit card contracts and loan agreements should be saved for as long as the account is active
  • Pay stubs can be shredded yearly after reconciling with your W-2 or other tax forms
  • Documentation of investment purchases or sales should be kept for as long as you own the investment and then seven years after that; shred monthly investment account statements annually after reconciling with a year-end statement
  • Always shred documents with Social Security numbers, birth dates, PIN numbers or passwords, financial information, contracts or letters with signatures, pre-approved credit card applications, medical and dental bills, travel itineraries, and used airline tickets.

Should You Keep All Your Real Estate Documents?

After you buy a home, is it necessary to hold onto all those documents? What about after a few years have passed? Should you still hang on to them? You don’t want to have to file all of the paperwork if it’s not necessary, especially if your filing cabinet is starting to burst at the seams. But you also don’t want to throw out something important.

When it comes to buying a home, you want to retain the following documents:

  • Buyer’s agent agreement
  • Purchase agreement
  • Amendments to the agreement
  • Seller disclosures
  • Closing disclosure
  • Home inspection report
  • Title insurance policy
  • Property deed

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