Hot on the heels of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s announcement that consumers are now much safer from identity thieves because they’re making stores shred instead of merely toss customer records out the back door, id theft watchdog Steven Peisner showed how easy it was to steal Abott’s identity through the incredibly insecure Secretary of State Online Access database. [Freakonomics]


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  1. A straight shredder still produces recoverable results for a determined ID thief. You better put those in a trash bag and fill the sucker with water. Let it sit for about an hour, or less. You’ll be good to go. Then again, my personal preference has yet to fail. Fire.

  2. timmus says:

    If you’re that concerned, go with a shredder that has the seal of approval from Ollie North.

  3. AtomikB says:

    GAH!!! Please stop saying “Identity Theft!” The English language already has a (less sensational) word for it. It’s called “Fraud.”

  4. guymandude says:

    You can greatly reduce the chance of Identity Theft if you stop giving out your social security number. *There is NO law* that says anyone MUST have a SSN(please feel free to WRITE the SS administration and ask them). There are laws that say, *if* you have a SSN, there are certain circumstances under which you must supply it. However, you don’t have to supply what you don’t have. The *Federal Privacy Act of 1974* says that it is a crime to deny someone service based on their nondisclosure of a SSN. So stop giving it out. If the phone company (for example) baulks at your refusal to supply one tell them you will be happy to give them a deposit which you expect to be credited back to your account after 6 months in good standing. This works… I do it all the time.

  5. @guymandude: Good to know!

    @Papa Midnight: I never throw all of a shredded document away in the same bag or at the same time. A fraudster can’t put something like an account number back together if piecies of it are missing.

    But then I also use scissors to cut characters in half and you do have to make sure that when you split it up that all of the sensitive words and numbers are split up as well. Water or fire is probably less work.

  6. generic says:

    It is true that shredders that produce “ribon” type shreds can be useless, as ribbons can be reassembled into the original documents; it may be easier than a 1000 piece puzzle.
    However, “micro” shredders, which produce “confetti” shreds, or even “powder” shreds, are almost impossible to reassemble into original documents.
    To be super safe, and limit financial damage, consumers can lock down access to their credit report. More information on that is at []
    There are also other deterrence measures, as described at the FTC website

  7. Just when you thouht it was safe to go back online…