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Secure your identity by shredding documents on April 15

A BBB records-shredding day in 2013.
A BBB records-shredding day in 2013. Provided by Better Business Bureau Northwest

It’s nearly Tax Day. That means it’s time for the annual reminder to take steps to secure your identity.

Doing taxes comes with plenty of paperwork that has sensitive personal information, including your Social Security number. To a thief, tax documents are a gold mine. Equipped with that information, a thief can wreak havoc on your financial life, from opening fraudulent accounts to filing phony taxes in your name next year.

If you’re concerned about keeping your identity secure, one effective thing you can do is shred sensitive documents you no longer need. The BBB is here to help with free document shredding this upcoming weekend. Mark your calendars for 10 a.m. to noon, Saturday, April 15, at the College of Western Idaho Micron Center on Franklin Road.

We’re also accepting computers and cell phones, which will be securely erased and recycled.

Bring up to three boxes of check stubs, receipts, junk mail, etc. If a piece of paper or an envelope has your name, identifying information or other sensitive materials, destroy it. Don’t worry about taking out the staples or leaving a few small paper clips in the stack.

You can shred just about any document, but there are some you should keep for a certain amount of time. The IRS has a few recommendations on tax documents for specific situations. Otherwise, the BBB recommends the following timeline for sensitive document shredding:

▪  Keep for three years: bank statements, expired insurance policies and employment applications.

▪  Keep for seven years: invoices, canceled stock certificates, payroll records and withholding statements.

▪  Keep permanently: deeds, mortgages, tax returns, audit reports, legal correspondence and property records.

While we’re on the topic of securing your identity, consider putting a freeze on your credit reports. Especially after multiple local data breaches, keeping an eye on credit is imperative.

A “freeze” means that anyone attempting to obtain a credit report on a consumer will be unable to get one, and will simply be told that the credit report is frozen. Because most creditors and merchants won’t extend significant credit without reviewing the consumer’s credit report first, it will be more difficult for fraudsters to get credit in your name. The freeze is also a good way to slow down pre-approved credit offers. (Fewer things to shred.)

The fee to freeze your credit varies by state, but is free for identity-theft victims in Idaho. If you aren’t a victim of identity theft, the cost is fairly small, around $6. Request the freeze through each credit bureau.

When you contact Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, be ready to provide the following:

▪  First, middle, and last names and any suffix

▪  Previous names, such as your maiden name

▪  Current and any recent addresses, including your street address, apartment number, city, state and zip code

▪  Social Security number

▪  Date of birth

You will still have access to check your credit report for free, once a year, from each of the agencies.

Don’t forget: Grab those three boxes of unneeded sensitive documents and get ready to throw it into a giant shredder — for free — on Saturday, April 15, from 10 a.m.-noon, at the CWI Micron Center right off the Garrity off ramp of I-84 at 5725 E. Franklin Road.

Emily Valla, emily.valla@thebbb.org, is the Idaho marketplace director for the Better Business Bureau Northwest. To check a business or report a scam, go to www.bbb.org or call (208) 342-4649.

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