Protect Yourself: Buy a Shredder

by Kevin on February 29, 2008

There was a discussion over at the GRS forums that made me want to write this. What do you do with all of those bank and credit card statements that come to your house? Throwing them in the trash is asking for trouble. Identity thieves could steal your information and then you’ve got a whole new set of problems to deal with.

I recommend buying your own paper shredder. But is a shredder really worth it?

The likelihood of someone stealing your garbage that just happens to contain a piece of paper with your social security or account number on it is slim. Still, identify theft does happen and it is a major pain to get cleared up. How would you like to not only have to completely start over with your financial life, but when you start you are further back in the race than you were when you started originally? It must be very frustrating. Varying reports have said it can take more than 60 hours to recover from identity theft. Thankfully (knock on wood), I have never experienced it.

A lot of personal finance is changing habits. Buying a shredder is just another way to change your behavior ever so slightly for a positive result. You want to completely destroy anything with your social security number, account number, or other sensitive information (brokerage statements, what’s left of your checkbook after the last check, etc.). I even shred the return portion of credit card offers. Every day we go through the mail and sort it into various piles. There’s an action pile, a throw away pile, and a shred pile. A very simple system. It takes maybe an additional minute to shred the extra documents rather than just throwing them away. I feel the effort and cost are definitely worth it.

Types of Shredding

There are several different types of shredders. Money magazine did a test a while back for home use (the website says the article is from 2005 and I have to think there was another best since then, but I can’t find it). What we use is a 8 sheet cross-cut shredder. A cross-cut does exactly what you might think it does — it shreds sheets in both diagonal directions. This results in small diamond shaped confetti. I guess if someone was really determined they might be able to piece all of the small pieces back together, but this works for us.

In the discussion at the GetRichSlowly forums (linked above), someone mentioned there are different levels of shredding quality. I found a website, ABC Office, that discusses the various types of security.

Our shredder cost $50 at Office Depot. You should be able to find one for a similar price point, maybe even less. If you use FatWallet, you could probably earn some cash back. It is a bit of an investment, but it gives us peace of mind.

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Matt February 29, 2008 at 7:31 am

I bought ours on sale for $25 at Office Depot. I think its incredibly important to shred certain documents rather than throwing them out. Its a small thing to do but it can have such a huge impact. Good post.

traineeinvestor February 29, 2008 at 7:42 am

The cheaper option is to take the papers into the office and feed them through a shredder in the office.

The other advantage of doing this is that your confetti will be mixed with a lot of other confetti making the task of putting the pieces together a lot harder (should anyone wish to even try).

Paper Shredders February 29, 2008 at 3:10 pm

I agree 100% about the importance of shredding documents. The only type of paper shredder I will use is a cross cut paper shredder. I recommend using a paper shredder that has a continuous-duty motor. That way you won’t have to worry about the motor burning out later on down the road.

zephyr sloan February 29, 2008 at 11:18 pm

identity theft has become increasingly common in todays world. trainee investor has suggested a good idea of taking all the papers and shredding them in the office. its always better to buy a cheap cross cut shredder for all your shredding.

Leigh March 1, 2008 at 8:27 am

I went a step further and signed up for the opt out of preapproved mailings. I had been considering purchasing ‘Lifelock’ until I read a post on masteryourcard blog– I went ahead and followed the steps and now have fraud alerts on my ssn and my dh’s ssn.

By opting out it *should* stop most if not all of the preapproved credit card offers and other such junk mail. I hope it works!

I sure do feel alot more secure about my credit now that I took these steps. It did not take me long. I contacted all three credit bureaus and was done within 30 min!

Cinder March 3, 2008 at 6:24 am

I can’t agree enough. I just picked up a nice one on clearance at Staples (Look for open boxes and make sure they still work and you’re golden if you’re cheap like me at time!) that Diamond shreads and has a seperate CC/CD/DVD slot. Seems to work great. I also find it HIGH therapeutic for some odd reason, don’t know why. I just like shredding.

Bill May 8, 2008 at 3:56 pm

I was just reading on another blog that you should stop carrying around your social security card. This and other steps as well as document destruction should help avoid identity theft.

Document Destruction September 18, 2011 at 12:04 am

Total document destruction is the best solution.

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