It’s no secret that data breaches and identity theft seem to be coming more and more part of our everyday lives. Think about what you’ve heard on your local news within the last few years. You’ve likely heard about data breaches involving stores like Target and companies like Facebook and Yahoo.
Even if you think you got the best passwords or you’re extremely careful with protecting your information, a harsh truth is that anyone can be a victim of identity theft. In 2017 alone, there were an estimated 16.7 million victims of identity fraud and it’s also been found that 24% of customers have discovered that they were identity fraud victims by accident.
So what can you do to keep your information secure? One of the best things you can do is to shred all documents you don’t need. If you’re one of those people who’s prone to keeping any kind of important financial or legal documents and you got filing cabinets full of them, there’s a lot of benefit to using commercial paper shredders, secure paper shredding or high capacity paper shredders to properly dispose of old documents.
If you got drawers and cabinets full of old receipts and pay stubs and tax forms and other documents, you’re probably wondering how long you should hang on to some of those papers and which should be disposed with secure paper shredding.
By using this guide, you’ll be able to quickly declutter your cabinets and drawers and only keep the documents that are most important.
- Receipts: The general rule for receipts is that you keep anything you might itemize on a tax return for at least three years.
- Medical bills: The best course of action with medical bills is to keep receipts for medical expenses for at least a year because your insurance company may request proof that you visited a doctor’s office or may need verification of other medical claims you may make. If you take any medical deductions on your taxes, you’ll want to hang on to records for at least three years.
- Pay stubs: With pay stubs, you typically want to hang on to those till the end of the year and discard them properly after comparing them to your W-2 statements or Social Security statements.
- Credit card statements: You’ll want to hang on to these until you’ve confirmed charges and have proof of payment for those charges. Like medical records, you’ll need to hang on to them for at least three years if you make any tax deductions.
- Home improvement records: You will want to hang on to these records for at least three years after the due date of a tax return that includes the income or loss on the home when it is sold. If you are planning on selling your house and you have made any improvements, you’re going to want to keep these receipts for at least seven years.
- Bank statements: Typically you want to hang on to these for at least three years, especially if you’re audited by the IRS. A good way to cut down on paper is switching to online statements through your bank.
- Tax returns: It’s been recommended by the IRS that you keep tax records for at least three years from the date you filed your original return or at least two years from the date you may have paid taxes.
- Property records, stock certificates, contracts: Hang on to these as long as they are active.
- Paid off loans: Keep these for seven years.
- Marriages licenses, death and birth certificates, adoption papers, wills: Keep these forever.
It may seem like there are a lot of rules to follow when it comes to figuring out which documents you want to keep. But by really taking time to sift through the documents you have, you’ll be able to significantly reduce the amount you have and keep what’s most important. When it comes time to dispose of documents, using secure paper shredding can ensure that no information falls into the wrong hands. With secure paper shredding, you can have better peace of mind and know that your information is secure.