Don’t Recycle Your Personal Information Into Identity Thieves’ Hands

Recycling paper: it’s supposedly better for the environment han tossing your old paperwork in a landfill, so it makes us feel good. All of our old paperwork is a bountiful harvest for someone who isn’t making brown paper napkins, though. If you aren’t careful, your personal and financial information could get recycled right into someone else’s hands.

“No one could possibly be that stupid!” you might say. No, plenty of members of the general public don’t realize what they’re recycling when they throw paperwork away. Our cross-cut shredding colleagues down the hall at Consumer Reports poked around at a public recycling facility near their headquarters in New York’s suburbs to see what they could find.

Highlights (lowlights?) included direct deposit pay stubs with non-negotiable checks. (At least they weren’t real checks.) They might have had the employee’s Social Security number redacted, but earnings and withholdings to date are on that statement.

People also toss bills and statements sensitive health information in the recycling bin un-shredded. Our colleagues found a retirement account statement, a mortgage statement with late fees tacked on, medical bills with detailed information about tests and procedures, and an auto insurance cancellation notice.

Since the items in your recycling bin aren’t covered with coffee grounds and potato peelings, it’s a lot easier and more pleasant for someone digging for information about you to paw through them.

Ask yourself: even if the person who found this item doesn’t have nefarious intentions, would I really want this piece of paper to blow into my neighbor’s yard? If the answer is “no,” tear them up or keep a shredder handy in your home.

Don’t be a recycling identity theft victim [Consumer Reports]