Paper Shredding Prevents Identity Theft

9:30 pm Houston, Paper Shredding

 

There are many reasons to shred your important documents but perhaps the most important is protection from identity theft. Identity theft has become increasingly common over the last 10 years and according to the US Federal Trade Commission 9,000,000 Americans have their identity stolen each year. Identity theft is the act of one person assuming the identity (by using a social security number, credit card number, or other personal data) of someone else typically for monetary gain. In 2006, a large survey on identity fraud was conducted by the Council of Better Business Bureaus and Javelin Strategy & Research. That report found that the average criminal accumulates $6383 in money and merchandise per identity theft and the national cost of identity theft is 56.6 billion per year. It also found that 90%  of stolen data was acquired through trash and other non-electronic methods, not through internet transactions and the age group most likely to have their identity stolen are  35-44.

 

There are many ways in which your identity can be stolen but the easiest is by the information most of us throw away. Many people don’t realize how often they leave their important information vulnerable but criminals are well aware and ready to take advantage rummaging through the trash for treasure. Credit card statements, bank statements, credit offers, utility bills, and other correspondence received by mail are prime targets for thieves.

 

Though most companies have become more careful about your information on correspondence, thieves have become better at fishing for information. A talented thief can take your statements and talk customer service representatives into releasing other information. For example, a woman may steal a mans information and then pretend to be his wife to obtain personal information. It’s also easy to  reroute other information and offers to a different address where they then begin to set up accounts in your name. Once one account is opened the rest is easy. That account is used to obtain credit cards, credit lines, and even bank loans and accounts.

 

In 1998, The US Congress passed the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act. This act made identity theft a Federal crime that carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison and fines up to $250,000. In addition, it allows victims of identity theft to seek monetary restitution and allows the Secret Service, FBI, and state and local police agencies to pursue the criminals.

 

The need for paper shredding in Houston is urgent. According to a report on KPRC Local 2 News (April 28, 2006), “identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the United States and Houston is the No. 1 spot for this crime in Texas”.  In 2005 and 2006 Houston Police Department’s Financial Crimes unit  had more than 32,000 cases open for investigation. If you are throwing any piece of mail away with personal information…you need to shred it! Simply tearing papers is not enough. Criminals are patient and will spend the time to reconstruct these pieces from your trash like jackpot puzzle. Using a shredder will make it impossible for criminals to use correspondence to steal your identity.

 

Personal shredders are inexpensive but can give you security that is priceless. If you have a small business or a large amount of documents to shred you may want to consider using a shredding service. These companies have locations you can take your document to to be shredded and will also shred on site for an additional charge. Most also recylcle the paper for the benefit of the environment. 

 

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