Are your desks & file cabinets beginning to overflow with another year’s worth of tax documents, receipts, invoices, medical papers, contracts, and even warranties for those electronics and appliances you no longer even own? While it is a sensible practice to hold on to financial records and other documents of importance, many people allow far too many outdated documents to accumulate and most are unsure of just how long they should retain their paperwork.
A pile-up of old documentation makes for not only an inconvenient and disorganized work space, but a significant financial threat to yourself and/or your business. With the extent of identity theft becoming ever more apparent, more and more people are beginning to recognize the problems posed by their confidential materials. Yet, most are still unsure of exactly what documents they should shred, how long those documents should be kept prior to shredding, or how to ensure materials are shredded and disposed of properly. Don’t allow something as simple as a piece of paper inconvenience your life or affect your financial status… Follow our Shredding Guidelines and gain a little piece of mind.
How to Shred…
Unfortunately, ensuring that your confidential documents are properly destroyed and disposed of isn’t as simple as purchasing a $30 shredder from your local store and doing it yourself. The vast majority of personal shredders are unequal to the task with which they are charged. These shredders are usually equipped to make fewer than 30 vertical cuts and no horizontal or cross-cuts. Furthermore, all shredded materials typically end up in the same waste bin. Should these materials fall into the wrong hands, document reassembly becomes a very real threat and, often times, only one or two strips of paper will contain enough information to compromise your identity. For these reasons, associations such as NAID (National Association for Information Destruction) recommend the use of a shredding service. At Security Shredding, our state-of-the-art cross-cut & hammer mill equipment cuts all documents down to the smallest possible size and simultaneously deposits materials into a secured compartment. Materials are then brought to a specialized recycling center for processing.
Our operation makes document reassembly virtually impossible and eliminates all risks posed by confidential materials. Visit our Mobile Shredder page for additional information on the shredding process. Not only do we provide security, but convenience. Rather than dealing with the hassle of feeding papers through your shredder a few at a time, simply gather your materials and schedule a Document Purge or come by on Saturdays for our Walk-In Service. We require only a few minutes of your time and costs are minimal.
What Documents Should I Shred and How Long Should I Keep Them?
- Tax Returns: The general rule for tax records is to retain them for 7 years. When you file the new return shred the expired one. The IRS has 3 years to audit you from the date you file your taxes and it is up to you to have all of the backup information that went into the preparation of your returns.
- Banks Statements: The only reason to keep bank statements is if you are thinking about applying for a mortgage (in which case you will only need a 3-month history). Otherwise, the banks has all of your records on file.
- ATM Receipts: Keep these until you balance your bank statement and then shred them.
- Credit Card Statements: It is recommended that you keep only 3 months on hand.
- Medical Insurance & Information: This includes your premium statements, doctor bills, prescriptions, hospital bills, etc. Keep these 5 years from the date of service.
- Home Insurance: The minimum suggested is 5 years, though it may be prudent to wait 10 years.
- Pay Stubs: Many people save these but this is not a good idea…just 1 page contains everything an identity thief needs to compromise yourself and your finances. Because each paycheck contains the history of all past stubs, it is not necessary to keep any stub except for the most recent. The exception is if you are planning to apply for a mortgage, which usually requires a 3 months’ worth of pay stubs.
- Investment Documents: If you have an IRA, 401K, or any other investments than you are likely inundated with prospectus, privacy notices, address confirmations, and so on. Do not keep any of these documents unless you plan to act on them. Public companies also ask you to vote for the board of directors and special measures once a year. Unless you own a significant amount of stock or have a strong opinion, you may wish to save the company postage and just shred the vote card. You should retain 3 months of balance statements and, following a new investment, retain purchase records until you liquidate and file taxes.
- Home Repairs: These should be kept for 10 years in case you need to prove something with regard to guarantees of workmanship. If you are renovating, make sure you get the satisfaction of lien from your contractor(s). Keep these documents as long as you own the property (they may prove useful during resale).
- Utility Bills: If you are writing off your utility bills for tax purposes, you may need to keep them in your records. However, if you can’t write them off, you need only keep bills from the past 3 months.
- Mortgage Documents: Keep the loan information as long as your mortgage is open. After you’ve paid off the mortgage, the bank is obligated to record a satisfaction of mortgage. You should keep this document as long as you own the home.
- Warranty Documents: Shred your warranties and related documents after getting rid of your electronics, appliances, software, etc.
- Computers, Hard Drives, and Electronic Storage Devices: Do not just place your old computers on the side of the road or throw away your external hard drives, flash disks, CD’s, or other storage devices…electronic media are a gold mine of confidential information for those who know how to access it. Security Shredding is equipped to handle all of your Electronic Shredding needs.