published Saturday, March 3rd, 2012

Phillips: What to shred to avoid identity theft schemes

by Ellen Phillips

Q: I know you've written about identity theft in the past, but I'm still not sure what to always shred. -- Calvin Cautious

A: Dear Mr. Cautious: First, I'm delighted you remember how important it is to shred personal information, rather than simply tearing up and trashing it. Don't worry about envelopes or magazines with your address as this is public info and can be easily obtained. Clearly, you have records you need to keep, such as tax records from the past seven years; however, documents you intend to discard and that should be on your must-destroy list are as follows:

• Credit card particulars, which include pre-approved offers and applications, as well as courtesy checks, must be destroyed. (Call the issuing companies to stop this flow of unsolicited offers.)

• Monthly bills that contain your account information are vital pieces to be obliterated. They can be used to obtain voter registration

cards, which can then help to obtain other forms of (mistaken) ID.

• Financial statements from checking, savings, stocks that contain the full account numbers should be shredded. Also, dispose of any PIN information.

• Pay stubs or anything pertaining to your workplace, including 1099s and other tax-related paperwork must be destroyed.

• Any form of identification to include expired driver's licenses and/or Social Security numbers is essential to be shredded into itsy bitsy fragments.

• Medical forms are also important. Any stolen medical ID number makes you vulnerable to medical ID theft, which I've written about in the past.

• Mail from companies with which you've done business is a no-no, too. Too many unscrupulous people could call and pretend to be a rep from that business to solicit information from an unsuspecting you.

(More ID guarding suggestions next week.)

Tax Tip: More folks are now eligible for tax credits to cover educational expenses. The AGI threshold has been changed. For example, the lifetime learning credit phases out at $102,200 for joint filers and $51,000 for single folks and heads of household.

about Ellen Phillips...

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at under Local Business.

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