What Receipts Are Safe to Throw Away vs. Shred?

by John DeMerceau, Demand Media
    Just throw away plain cash receipts with no name and address.

    Just throw away plain cash receipts with no name and address.

    You've probably heard warnings about identity theft and how professional criminals can get all the information they need to make your life miserable just by taking your old, unshredded receipts and financial documents out of the garbage dump. Those warnings are true, but you really don't have to shred everything. You can just throw away receipts that don't have any real identifying information.

    Shred It

    Any piece of paper that has even part of your credit card, bank account or Social Security number on it, along with your signature, should go right to the shredder. That's the same way to dispose of any receipt that has your entire card, Social Security or bank account number on it, signature or no signature. Any receipt that you sign is best shredded, especially if it also includes identifying information such as your name or address.

    Throw It Away

    You can throw away simple cash purchase receipts such as supermarket cash register receipts, as they have no information at all about you. You can even throw out receipts that just have your name and address on them, as your name and address are already on record and accessible by everyone and anyone. If the receipt shows the last four digits of your credit card number or Social Security number and it is not signed, you can throw it away.

    Better to Shred

    Take a good look at your supermarket receipts. If you use your courtesy card, your name and number may appear on the receipt. That's enough for identity thieves to find what they need, so shred receipts like that. Shred anything that has any identification number along with your name, even if it is just a customer number or retailer account number.

    Shred It Right

    Inexpensive strip shredders just cut your documents lengthwise, and today's pros can put them together again and get your information very easily. Spend a bit more and get yourself a cross-cut, confetti or diamond-cut shredder. These types of shredders make mincemeat, rather than shredded wheat, out of your documents. Alternately, you can incinerate your sensitive documents in your fireplace or barbecue grill, but make sure they're reduced to ash.

    About the Author

    John DeMerceau is an American expatriate entrepreneur, marketing analyst and Web developer. He now lives and works in southeast Asia, where he creates websites and branding/marketing reports for international clients. DeMerceau graduated from Columbia University with a Bachelor of Arts in history.

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