To Shred or Not to Shred: A Guide to Safely and Responsibly Disposing of Documents

May 9, 2023

To Shred or Not to Shred: A Guide to Safely and Responsibly Disposing of Documents

What documents should I shred?
The documents that need to be shredded include anything with personal identifying information like names, birthdates, addresses, phone numbers, emails, passwords, account numbers, driver’s license numbers, social security numbers, and PINs. Simply throwing these documents in the trash is not enough because data thieves can legally search through your dumpsters for anything that may help them steal private information.

Here’s a list of documents that you should shred to prevent identity thieves from stealing your personal information:

•    Copies of important documents like marriage licenses and birth and death
•    Expired visas, passports, and passport cards
•    Invalid ID cards
•    Report cards
•    Resumes
•    License plates
•    Utility bills
•    Student loan paperwork
•    Junk mail like credit card and insurance offers
•    Old pay stubs
•    Sales receipts
•    Billing statement for credit cards
•    Medical records and medical bills
•    Legal documents
•    Airline tickets and travel itineraries

When to Shred Documents
In this guide, we’ve discussed the reasons why you need to shred documents, hard drives, and other items with sensitive information, so now it’s time to discuss when to shred them. Generally speaking, most items fall into four categories:

•    Keep up to one year
•    Shred after three years
•    Shred after seven years
•    Keep forever

Let’s look at the documents that should be kept up to one year: They include, but are limited to:

•    Sales and ATM receipts
•    Purchase orders
•    Paid utility bills
•    Credit offers
•    Duplicate deposit slips
•    Requisitions
•    Receiving sheets
•    Correspondence with vendors and customers

Documents that should be shredded after three years are:

•    Timecards for hourly employees
•    Internal audit reports
•    Employee records (after termination)
•    Expired insurance policies
•    Employee applications
•    Inventories of materials and supplies
•    Sales invoices records

Next are the documents you need to shred after seven years:

•    Accident reports and claims
•    Bank statements
•    Accounts payable ledgers and schedules
•    Accounts receivable paperwork
•    Employment tax records
•    W-2 records
•    Tax-related receipts

Lastly, the documents you need to keep forever:

•    Social Security cards
•    Cash books
•    Titles and deeds
•    Leases and contracts currently in effect
•    Marriage and divorce certificates
•    Birth, adoption, and death certificates
•    Audit reports from accountants 
•    Year-end financial statements

The sooner you shred documents, the less time identity thieves have to find them and use them to steal your identity.

The Benefits of Shredding Documents
Besides keeping personal information protected, there are other benefits of shredding documents. First, it helps you clear out clutter from your office. And second, it helps you stay organized. When you shred documents, you can get rid of old documents that you don’t need anymore. This decluttering process can help you and your employees be more productive at work.

What Not to Shred
If you are considering using a mobile paper shredding service to securely destroy documents and hard drives, you may have some questions about what items can’t be shredded. Any items that aren’t paper should not be placed into the shredder including office supplies, food, glass, and anything with a battery. On the plus side, it is okay to put documents with staples and paperclips into the shredder, as the machines can easily handle these small bits of metal, which can save you a lot of time. 

Additionally, once your documents are shredded, the remains are taken to be recycled, where magnets remove the metal remnants from the shredded papers, which is also good for the environment.



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