April 11, 2023

Protect your Identity: Why you Should Shred Junk Mail

We have all heard the saying, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Trash might be exactly what you see when looking inside your mailbox, and it is full of junk mail. However, to a scam artist or identity thief, that junk mail is a useful treasure.

U.S. households get, on average, 848 pieces of junk mail a year. This mail can include credit card and insurance offers, charity solicitations, coupon books, magazines, and catalogues. Most of these are unsolicited direct mail marketing pieces. Many people don’t even bother to look at these materials, with approximately 44 percent of junk mail thrown away without being opened. However, throwing out your unwanted mail in the trash or recycling bin could put you at risk of identity theft. 

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), there were over 1.1 million reports of identity theft received through the FTC’s IndentityTheft.gov website in 2022. A lot of junk mail contains more personal information than you might think. An identity thief or scam artist can do a great deal of damage with just your name and address. Some junk mail has even more personal information than that. Most banks like to send mail with offers to increase credit limits. This mail can include your current credit limit and branch address. Some pre-authorized credit cards and limited-time offers from organizations include a barcode that has personal identifying information such as your address or in some cases, account numbers.

Garbage and recycling bins left out on the curb for pick up are not secure forms of disposal. Anyone can go through bins and take out discarded mail. Malicious actors steal physical data through “dumpster diving,” where they steal personal information discarded in trash and recycling bins. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, one of the most common ways that identity theft or fraud happens is when you receive a “pre-approved” credit card in the mail and throw it away without shredding the contents of the envelope. Criminals can take the mail out of the garbage or recycling bin and try to activate the cards without your knowledge. A fraudulent credit card in your name can have terrible, long-term effects on your credit rating.

Shredding is one of the most secure ways to dispose of unneeded or unwanted documents containing personal information. Secure document destruction services, like Shred-it®, offer fast and convenient options such as:

What Happens to Documents For Shredding

Shred-it® is NAID AAA certified, which means we follow document destruction best practices and are compliant with all known data protection laws. Unlike personal shredders that usually strip-shred documents and can potentially be pieced back together, we use industrial-grade, cross-cut shredders to transform paper documents into small, confetti-like pieces, which cannot be reconstructed, thus limiting chances for theft. Additionally, our industrial-grade equipment can handle staples and paper clips. The confetti-sized pieces of paper are then bundled and recycled into paper products.

Benefits of Secure Document Destruction Services

  1. Security: Professional shredding services can help keep access to confidential documents secure from when they are discarded to when they are recycled. Shredding can help prevent bad actors from gaining access to confidential information even after shredding.
  2. Efficiency: At-home shredders can be slow and may break often. With a professional shredding service, you can drop off your documents for shredding, potentially saving hours of time and effort.
  3. A wide range of data protection services: At-home shredders can typically only destroy paper documents, but professional shredding services can handle many other types of data storage, including hard drives.  
  4. Recycling: Documents destroyed with an at-home shredder might accidentally go in the trash bin. Shred-it’s® residential shredding service helps ensure that shredded documents are ultimately recycled.

Junk mail is just one type of material that should be shredded to help protect from identity fraud and potential scams. You should securely destroy any papers containing personal information that could be used to commit fraud, such as health information, bank account numbers, tax documents, and more. Learn more about how Shred-it® can help protect your personal information.