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You always shred important documents such as old bank statements, receipts, and sales commission reports, but what do you do with expired credit cards or old diskettes with sensitive information?
If you answered toss them in the trash, think again. "You've got to make [them] unreadable in any way, shape, or form," recommends Jay Foley, Director of Consumer and Victim Services at the Identity Theft Resource Center.
If you don't, you risk becoming a victim of identity theft — "a crime in which an imposter obtains key pieces of information — to [then] obtain credit, merchandise, and services in the name of the victim. The victim is left with a ruined credit history and the time–consuming and complicated task of regaining financial health," explains the Identity Theft Resource Center.
The Identity Theft Resource Center estimates that as many as 1.1 million people became victims of identity crimes in 2001.
Today, shredders offer the next level of protection. Many mid to high–end shredders have the power to destroy an occasional credit card, CD, or diskette.
According to Carolyn Mueller, a product manager for the General Binding Corporation (GBC), "if it [shreds] probably 7 to 10 sheets at a time, [its] going to be able to handle occasional credit cards," diskettes, and CDs. At the same time, Mueller reminds that "by no means are paper shredders designed for the exclusive destruction" of these items.
Even for its high–end paper shredders, GBC recommends shredding no more than five to six CDs or diskettes per day. If you have boxes of diskettes, for example, that need to be destroyed, you'll need to hire a shredding service.
While experts recommend the cross–cut setting for paper, as it shreds documents into confetti–like pieces, the strip– or straight–cut setting tends to work best for credit cards, diskettes, and CDs. The strip–cut setting allows the media to move smoothly through the blades. The cross–cut setting creates a crunching motion that may cause shredded pieces to fly out and injure the person doing the shredding.
Once you've put a CD or diskette through the shredder, don't be surprised if it's not completely shredded, as a sheet of paper would be. According to Foley, putting the item through the shredder "will damage the surface material to the point where it can no longer be read," which is all you need to do to protect yourself. For best results, you may want to break the CD or diskette in half first and then shred each half separately.
Before placing a credit card, CD, or diskette into your shredder, carefully look at the shredder's casing and see if there's a diagram pointing to where you should insert the item. Also check your owner's manual to see if it provides any specific information or directions about shredding these items.