Saturday, June 27, 2009

Easy Ways to Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

Just last year alone, over 10 million Americans had their identities stolen according to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), a non-profit organization.

In other words, if you live in the US, you have about a 1 in 10 chance EVERY year of getting your identity stolen. What does it take to fix an identity theft problem? It will cost you an average of $550.39 in out-of-pocket expenses, it will take you an average of 116 hours and up to 12 months to repair the damage.

Preventing identity theft from happening is much easier than fixing an identity theft problem after it happens. There are some simple things you can do to protect yourself and your family.

Start by investing in a reliable cross cut personal paper shredder for your home. Be sure that it is "Cross Cut" and preferably one that has jam-free rollers or auto reverse and a safety guard if you have children in your home. Shred every paper document that has your personal information on it (except the documents that you want to keep of course), including all of the credit card applications you get in the mail. 68% of identity theft happens as a result of documents being stolen from recycle and trash bins. To

If you have a child away at college, get them a personal paper shredder as well. Currently a growing number of college students getting their identities stolen. Students tend to rarely shred documents containing their personal information and typically they receive a substantial amount of credit card applications and loan applications in the mail. The damage is often greater because it takes them longer realize that their identity has been stolen.

If you are clearing your files and have a substantial amount of papers that need to be shredded, take them to a drop-off site in your area. At most paper shredding drop-off sites they will shred your papers as you watch. They use commercial grade shredders that accept staples, credit cards, paper clips and sometimes even full binders. On average you can have a full bankers box of papers shredded for between $5-$15. There are several companies across the US that offer this service. Your bank may offer the service free of charge once or twice a year.

If you don't want to have to bring all of your papers somewhere, you could have a 50-100 gallon locked bin delivered to your home. Spend a weekend cleaning out your file cabinets and fill it with all of your documents to be shredded. The company will pick it up and give you a certificate of destruction. This service varies by company and usually costs between $60-$100. Be sure you use a company that is certified.

What can you do with the shredded paper in your home? One idea is to bring it to your local Humane Society! They use it to make cozy animal beds. Or you could use it to pack and ship items, compost it or put it out with your recycling.

Keep your personal information safe and you will be significantly less likely to become a victim of identity theft.

Heidi DeCoux is the publisher of the Life Made Simple E-zine and is a speaker, author and professional organizer in Minneapolis specializing in home organization. Heidi energizes her readers' lives by simplifying their homes and schedules. For more information and to receive her FREE e-Solutions Kit, Finally Revealed: The Fast & Easy Way to Get Organized and Stay Organized Forever, visit and discover how to find what you want fast, end the frustration of endless searching, and have more fun! For more information about Heidi and her services and products, visit

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