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Innovation

Old documents and the big identity theft threat

The key to your identity, the trusty Social Security number, is plastered on all of your old documents. The smartest move you can make is shredding these documents.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

A decent chunk of my staycation was spent shredding a decade or so of documents in the home office. It's stunning how your Social Security number used to be printed on everything. In fact, your identity would be more secure if you just spray painted your Social Security number on the front of your house with a sign that said "Take me."

Up until about about 2005 or so (according to my unscientific analysis of my old documents) Social Security numbers were everywhere. Those numbers serve as pixie dust for ID theft. While hackers are screwing around with encryption programs and other fun techniques to snag your identity good old fashioned dumpster diving could be more lucrative.

The key to your identity---the trusty Social Security number---is plastered on all of your old documents. Pay stubs, mutual fund statements, 401(k)s and a bevy of other documents you may be hoarding in a file cabinet somewhere most likely have your Social Security number printed on them. It's amazing how free and loose companies were with your Social Security number just a few years ago.

The smartest move you can make is shredding these docs pronto.

The next question: Why not just go paperless and save a few trees? Generally speaking, I don't like having documents I may need held at the whim of the holding policies of my vendors. For instance, your bank may decide it only wants to hold 18 months of statements online. If you suddenly need a statement from 20 months ago, you have some extra work---and potentially extra fees---just to retrieve them.

Given that conundrum I stick with paper statements for better or worse.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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