Last year nearly 12 million Americans fell victim to identity thieves.
The bad credit ratings that those victims were left with could potentially harm them for years.
Consumers are not, however, powerless in their efforts to thwart those out to swipe their identities. Shredding sensitive documents before discarding them is a simple, effective way to decrease the odds that you will be among those who are hit by these scammers.
Because your households trash day can easily be a crooks cash day, the Better Business Bureau has put together a list of documents that ought to be shredded before being discarded. Those include any document containing Social Security numbers, birthdates, PIN numbers or passwords.
It also includes banking documents or any others containing financial information; leases, contracts or letters that include signatures; pre-approved credit card applications; medical or dental bills; travel itineraries; used airline tickets; insurance forms and utility bills.
In addition to shredding, heres what else you should be doing to keep your identity to yourself:
• Cut up all expired credit and debit cards. Remember to cut through the cards numbers when you do this.
• Protect Social Security numbers, account numbers and passwords. Do not carry them in your wallet. Give them out only when absolutely necessary. Beware of unsolicited e-mails and phone calls asking for these numbers.
• Secure your personal documents. If you employ outside help, have contractors in your residence or have a roommate, be sure your personal documents are in a safe place and not lying out in plain view.
• Keep personal information that is printed on your checks to a minimum. You dont have to include your Social Security number, drivers license number or phone number.
• Monitor your bank and credit card transactions. Read your statements carefully for unauthorized transactions. Crooks may start with small transactions to test whether you are paying attention.
• Be aware of billing cycles. If a bill doesnt arrive on time, check with your creditor to find out why.
• Dont create obvious passwords. Avoid using birth dates, childrens names, mothers maiden name or the last four digits of your Social Security number.
• Dont conduct business online with a public computer. Your personal computer is more secure.
• Dont use e-mail to communicate personal sensitive information. Neither your bank, credit card company, online payment system nor the IRS will call or e-mail asking for your confidential information. They have it already.
The Better Business Bureau is offering free onsite document shredding from 9 a.m. to noon, Oct. 20, at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, 300 S. Sycamore St.