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Scrub, Sort, Shred: Identity Safety Tips for Spring Cleaning

June 23, 2016

Spring is here and summer is just around the corner. It’s time to scrub, air out, and let the sun shine in! And decluttering is all the rage, so your spring-cleaning routine probably includes going through closets, cupboards, old files, and getting rid of paperwork that’s been piling up. This is great, as long as cleaning your habitat doesn’t dirty up your identity.

Scrub, Sort, Shred: Identity Safety Tips for Spring Cleaning

Here are some tips for disposing of your personal information safely, so it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands:

  • First shred papers, then recycle. Shred ALL paper with personal information, including junk mail. (Or someone else may cash in on that pre-approved credit card offer.) A good home-use crosscut shredder (retail cost $100–$150) will make short work of destroying documents and producing festive confetti that you can recycle or save for a party. If you don’t want to spend on a high-end shredder, use a good document disposal service. Businesses like office supply stores and UPS stores offer secure shredding, and prices are typically $1–$2 per pound.
  • Scrub digital data. If old computers or outdated disks have been gathering dust, who knows what personal information lurks among their old bits and bytes? Make sure they’re erased before you recycle or donate them. LifeHacker and other sites have good information about how to backup the information and then reformat disks. If you don’t want to tackle this, stores such as Staples have recycling programs, or search online for a data destruction and e-cycling vendor in your area.

There’s nothing like spring-cleaning to inspire us to avoid messes in the future, so here are a few resolutions to consider:

  • Go paperless. If you switch to receiving online credit card statements, bank statements, utility bills and other reports online, there’ll be less to shred.
  • Opt out. There are a number of organizations that help you opt out of junk mail. Go to catalogchoice.org to reduce the waste and hassle of catalogs and other unsolicited offers. The Federal Trade Commission also lists web sites where you can opt out.
  • Shred a little every day. When you do get paper with personal information, shred it right away. (To save time, you can separate out just the parts with personal information to shred, and throw the rest straight in the recycling.) And if you need to save a year’s worth of paper statements, keep them in a folder and shred the oldest one when you file the newest.

With a few new habits, by summer you can spend less time cleaning and have more time for fun in the sun.