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Identity Theft Prevention Tips?

Cliff posted more than 9 years ago | from the keeping-your-identity-to-yourself dept.

Security 126

metalhed77 asks: "I have a ton of bank statements I need to dispose of and am wondering what I should do with them. Googling for solutions I just find banks advising me to tear them up, which seems like more an inconvenience to a thief than a real preventative measure. What do Slashdot readers do with their sensitive documents? With so much data theft occurring in today's society, what else do you all do to protect your personal data?"

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Easy solution... (2, Informative)

TechDock (558245) | more than 9 years ago | (#12392347)

Buy an inexpensive crosscut shredder

Re:Easy solution... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12392352)

I think we can close this thread now. /move along.

Re:Easy solution... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12392372)

But what if the criminal pieces them back together!!!!

Clearly the only solution is to throw out every piece into different trashbins... some at home, some at work, some at the store... wherever you can find them. This may not be enough, however, so you should probably swallow some of the pieces and hope they're digested.

Re:Easy solution... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12392445)

Skip right to the end of all that -- since the paper isn't really digestible, I say just take a cr*p on the shredded pieces and call it good. Nobody will want to get near it then!

Re:Easy solution... (5, Funny)

AndroidCat (229562) | more than 9 years ago | (#12392450)

Mix the pieces with kitty litter, biohazard baby diapers and damned leftovers from Hell's Fridge. The crimial might get your identity, but he'll never be clean again!

Re:Easy solution... (1)

Nutria (679911) | more than 9 years ago | (#12392828)

But what if the criminal pieces them back together!!!!

You've never seen the diamond-shaped confetti created by a cross-cut shredder, have you?

If you're tin-foil paranoid, though, soak the confetti in water for a day or 2, then press it dry.

You'll have a huge, amorphous lump of pulp, undecipherable by no one.

Re:Easy solution... (1)

shufler (262955) | more than 9 years ago | (#12393240)

Or go the other route -- burn it. If you have a fire place, toss it in there. If not, burn it as an effigy on your front lawn.

Re:Easy solution... (1)

Nutria (679911) | more than 9 years ago | (#12394366)

Or go the other route -- burn it. If you have a fire place, toss it in there. If not, burn it as an effigy on your front lawn.

Risk of burning bits of paper floating off in the wind, though.

If you are in an older, or northern building that has a boiler/burner down in the basement, throw the confetti in it.

Re:Easy solution... (1)

SunFan (845761) | more than 9 years ago | (#12392953)


No no, the GP forgot to mention stirring up the resulting pieces to eliminate locality of information in the trash.

Re:Easy solution... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12393379)

No no, the GP forgot to mention stirring up the resulting pieces to eliminate locality of information in the trash.

It's also easy to separate them into serveral piles, and throw them out at different locations (home, work, a random dumpster, etc.).

Re:Easy solution... (2, Funny)

caseydk (203763) | more than 9 years ago | (#12395961)


I shred mine and add them to the used kitty litter.

I figure that if they go to effort at that point, they deserve anything they can get.

Re:Easy solution... (1)

TheWanderingHermit (513872) | more than 9 years ago | (#12392500)

I don't use a croscut shredder, but I did get a shredder a while back. For me, it's largely to protect source code, client identity, things like that. Rarely am I shredding something that would include enough client information for it to be dangerous to a client.

When I do have to shread papers that include bank statements, or enough info about a client that it could be dangerous to that client, I put the shredder over another bin and shred. When that 2nd bin fills up, I dump it in the fireplace, get a few marshmallows, and roast them over the fire while burning the papers.

Re:Easy solution... (1)

Nos. (179609) | more than 9 years ago | (#12392857)

Same here. We picked up a cheap vertical only shredder. We have a large back that we store the shreddings in. When winter comes around, it makes it really easy to start a fire with a couple handfuls of the stuff. If we start getting an over abundance, then we just use more paper in the fire.

Re:Easy solution... (1)

electrofreak (744993) | more than 9 years ago | (#12394254)

Buy an inexpensive crosscut shredder
...Or a lighter.

Burn 'Em (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12392350)

Burn the papers. Keep a pile of them, and once every few months, toss them on a fire. It's the only solution for the paranoid.

You have more to worry from electronic theft than you do from somebody digging through your trash, though. Your SSN and everything else are on file with your credit card companies, banks, etc., and all too often they get cracked. Not a whole lot you can do there, other than avoiding business with them altogether.

Re:Burn 'Em (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 9 years ago | (#12392431)

You can always have shitty credit, no identity thief would *WANT* your identity :P

Re:Burn 'Em (1, Interesting)

Seumas (6865) | more than 9 years ago | (#12392665)

Not really. Bad credit is better than no credit. A history of debt is better than a history of no debt. Someone with an established history of being "in the hole" is socially and economically preferable to someone with a responsible history of not incurring debt in the first place.

Re:Burn 'Em (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12392683)

Someone with an established history of being "in the hole" is socially and economically preferable to someone with a responsible history of not incurring debt in the first place.

As far as the credit companies are concerned, you're right. You're more likely to get money from them now if they know they can make money off you in the long run.

But I'd much rather take the no-history option, if it means I save myself from a year's salary worth of interest payments.

Re:Burn 'Em (3, Funny)

pyrrhonist (701154) | more than 9 years ago | (#12392629)

Burn the papers. Keep a pile of them, and once every few months, toss them on a fire. It's the only solution for the paranoid.

No! Never burn your old papers. When paper is burned, the smoke emitted by the fire can be intercepted and the data recovered.

Come on, haven't you ever heard of smoke signals?

Re:Burn 'Em (2, Funny)

JRootabega (620750) | more than 9 years ago | (#12393321)

That is why you puff on a cigarette while you're doing it. It's a one-time pad.

Re:Burn 'Em (2, Funny)

fm6 (162816) | more than 9 years ago | (#12392645)

It's the only solution for the paranoid.
Burning sensitive papers isn't paranoid. Doing an electronic sweep for hidden cameras near your fireplace, now that is paranoid.

Re:Burn 'Em (3, Funny)

erth64net (47842) | more than 9 years ago | (#12392713)

OMG! I never thought of the cameras! I mean I did disassemble my shredder to check there, but the fireplace?!? I wonder where I can get my hands on a wideband RF detector?

Re:Burn 'Em (1)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 9 years ago | (#12392780)

Don't worry, there's no need for a detector - simply take pre-emptive action against any cameras that might be around with one of these [amazing1.com] .

Re:Burn 'Em (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 9 years ago | (#12392810)

Good lord. I hope this is a scam. If EMP devices have already gone commercial, we're all in big trouble!

Don't worry about detection, just disable it (2, Informative)

bluGill (862) | more than 9 years ago | (#12393394)

Don't worry about detecting the camera, just destroy its ability to work.


Start with newspapers (or better yet create some papers that look real, but really have fake data you WANT them to read) and a few logs.
Start your fire normally.
Once the logs are burning use a fan/bellows to crank up the heat.
Do this for some time, long enough to melt any cameras directly in the chimney.
Suddenly close the doors and damper. The heat of the former fire will keep smoke for a long time, this will build up soot in the chimney.
After some time re-build the fire, but just a small one.
Stir the shredded versions of your documents.
Slowly put the confetti in the fire.
Let the fire go out and everything cool. Keep watching.
Stir the ashes.

The small fire is important. A large fire will create enough of a draft to drive some of the paper up the chimney and out.

Re:Burn 'Em (1)

j-turkey (187775) | more than 9 years ago | (#12392956)

Burn the papers. Keep a pile of them, and once every few months, toss them on a fire. It's the only solution for the paranoid.

LOL! Dust off and nuke the site...it's the only way to be sure.

Burn it... (3, Insightful)

pbulteel73 (559845) | more than 9 years ago | (#12392364)

Depends where you live, but sometimes you can use a chimney or BBQ (well, dunno about a BBQ.) I wouldn't recommend burning a big pile of paper. If you have a Chimenea you can burn it there. (I don't mean your actual chimney, but that could be an option for small amounts.) Anyway, fire would probably be the best place, BUT you need keep an eye on it. Don't just walk away! -P

Re:Burn it... (1)

AndroidCat (229562) | more than 9 years ago | (#12392583)

Two things if you're using a fireplace: Make sure the damper is open (duh! ;), and burning paper alone doesn't always seem to generate the updraft needed to suck the smoke up the chimney. Getting a log or two going good first might be an idea and should result in a lot less smoke and residue gunking the chimney. Don't try to add it all at once, and yeah, don't just walk away.

a few ideas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12392367)

1. fine, cross-cut shredder from your local office supply store
2. burn them (in outdoor grill, indoor fireplace)
3. eat them (not advisable, thought the fiber is probably useful)

I have the same situation -- about 10 years worth of statements. Waaay too long these were kept. It's asking for trouble if the house is ever broken into.

Re:a few ideas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12392976)


about 10 years worth of statements.

Apparently you can take stuff like this to a commercial shredding service. One of my relatives had decades of tax documents, bills, etc. and the shredding company just through whole box fulls into the shredder (much faster this way).

easy one (4, Insightful)

hankaholic (32239) | more than 9 years ago | (#12392386)

Buy a cross-cut shredder. As mentioned by someone else, if you're too cheap for that, fire will work as well.

The one thing that people don't necessarily think of is checking their mail in the first place -- I know an older couple whose mail kept getting stolen, and the thief was using the information contained in the mail to do all kinds of things in their names.

If at all possible, ask the companies sending you bills and statements whether there's a paperless option -- I've heard that many companies are now providing statements online with the option to stop mailing you a physical copy. Someone can't steal what isn't produced in the first place.

Re:easy one (4, Funny)

Chess_the_cat (653159) | more than 9 years ago | (#12392664)

I've heard that many companies are now providing statements online with the option to stop mailing you a physical copy. Someone can't steal what isn't produced in the first place.

Hmmmm. Your arguments are airtight. Unless of course one day someone figures out how to "break" "into" a "computer" and "steal" "data". But we've probably got a long wait ahead of us before that happens.

Re:easy one (1)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 9 years ago | (#12393271)

Unless of course one day someone figures out how to "break" "into" a "computer" and "steal" "data".

And as a second side of the same problem, if anyone does achieve this particular magic trick (not that they could, of course ;-)) then lack of a proper paper record will conveniently mean that you have no obvious way of challenging it...

Re:easy one (1)

ConceptJunkie (24823) | more than 9 years ago | (#12393755)

Come on, compromising someone's computer is at least slightly more difficult than snatching their postal mail.

And I really can't understand what browsing at -1 has to do with the First Amendment. That makes about as much sense as "Support the Second Amendment, eat pizza."

Easy one: strike first (1)

MarkusQ (450076) | more than 9 years ago | (#12394626)


As the parent poster pointed out, there is no perfect defense. But we all know that the best defense is a good offense--you need to beat these creeps at their own game.

Do you remember the story about the woman who had her purse snatched twice in the same train station, so she started carrying about a purse filled with dog poop? It only got stolen one more time. The thief learned quickly! And I say, that's the way to do it!

Strke first! Strike hard! Trash your own credit to the point that anybody that claims to be you is pretty much guarenteed to have all their stuff taken from them within a week. The only way to stop identity theft is to make it so painful for the thief that they can't take it any more and cry uncle (note: if you think about it this also explains what's been going on in the movie/music industries lately).

--MarkusQ

Re:easy one (1)

sameyeam (587571) | more than 9 years ago | (#12395907)

I dunno. I've switched my bank statements to online only now. I get an email reminder when I get issued a new statement, to view it I then have to log onto my banks website using a username, password, plus the answer to a "secret" question chosen from 5 (I think) that I've previously picked out. While it isn't completely secure...it seems it'd be a lot more difficult for someone to steal my information in this context then it would be for them to steal it from the post - especially if I lived in America with those silly post boxes you guys have - what's the problem with putting it through the front door dammit!?!?! :-)

Re:easy one (1)

MBCook (132727) | more than 9 years ago | (#12392684)

Locking Mailbox

The shredder is the first line of defense, and the paperless idea is good too (especially since all sorts of places actually CHARGE YOU for a paper copy anyway). But in regards to the mailbox thing, get a locking mailbox. Where I live the mailboxes are all in little groups that the post office setup and they lock so you can't walk up and steal people's mail. But even if you don't have that kind of setup, you should be able to get a locking mailbox (make sure it's post office approved). They will either have a key the postman uses, or be setup so anyone can put mail IN, but not take it OUT without a key.

I know such things exist, and that will make you safer. If you can't (or don't want to) do something like that, just mail your bills yourself. Don't just stick them in your mailbox and wait for the postman to pick 'em up if anyone can get into it. Take it to a drop off mailbox (you know, the blue ones on street corners) and drop it in there where no-one can (easily) get to it. That way they can't take your checks for washing/copying.

The shredder is the first line. I don't know how far you want to go with all this, but the shredder is the minimum in my opinion.

Re:easy one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12392992)


Alternatively, a PO box is only ~$25/year. It locks and no one knows your real address, which has its advantages (especially for a home business). I have the added advantage that my street is on no maps, is buried behind a neighborhood, and even UPS/FedEx/DHL have to call and ask for directions :)

Re:easy one (1)

DustMagnet (453493) | more than 9 years ago | (#12392886)

Buy a cross-cut shredder.

That's the way to go. They've really come down in price. To get the best deal, check the weekly store ads today from Staples, OfficeMax, or Office Depot. The sales run Sunday to Saturday, so there might be one still on sale today. If not, then check tomorrow's ad. They have "get you in the store" sales on shredders all the time.

If you've never bought a shredder before, get a cheap crosscut. If you can afford a few dollars more, get a crosscut that handles more pages at a time and CDs as well. I saw one of those really cheap the other day, but my three pager has another couple years left in it.

Have you asked you bank? (2, Informative)

joelparker (586428) | more than 9 years ago | (#12392406)

Some banks will help you, for example letting you use their cross-shredder or document-disposal bins.

You, a bucket, some water, the papers... (2, Informative)

St. Arbirix (218306) | more than 9 years ago | (#12392411)

Make some mulch. Shredding them would work too. After shredding them just spread them across your garden and spray it down with a sprinkler, or turn them in your compost pile. This is also a great way to dispose of cardboard boxes after a big move.

A good worm farm can take care of a NYT subscription pretty easily.

Re:You, a bucket, some water, the papers... (2, Interesting)

woobieman29 (593880) | more than 9 years ago | (#12392884)

Sounds like a good idea, but please don't do this on your vegetable garden! The inks in some of the printed materials (especially colored inks) have a lot of ingredients you wouldn't really want to eat.

Re:You, a bucket, some water, the papers... (1)

SunFan (845761) | more than 9 years ago | (#12393005)


Ewww, it tastes like grandma!

Re:You, a bucket, some water, the papers... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12393477)

Yeah, if it weren't for the fact that many of the inks and such used on the papers are toxic. Now you have added toxins to the local water and your ground. Smart.

ask slashdot gets obvious (5, Insightful)

hankaholic (32239) | more than 9 years ago | (#12392416)

hankaholic asks, "I have a ton of nails I'd like to pound into a board for a project I've got going. Googling for solutions I just find hardware stores advising me to hit them with a sturdy object, which seems like more an way to damage a blunt object than a real nail-driving measure. What do Slashdot readers do with their nails? With so many construction techniques in today's society, what else do you all use to get those nail-based projects off of the drawing board?"

We're moving in the right direction (1)

roystgnr (4015) | more than 9 years ago | (#12392567)

At least this Ask Slashdot could be summarized as "I used Google and couldn't understand the results." rather than "What's a Google?"

To be fair to the submitter, though, I understand the concern that hand-torn paper is easy to piece together - that's why I blew $20 on a cross-cut shredder.

Re:We're moving in the right direction (1)

Given M. Sur (870067) | more than 9 years ago | (#12394566)

To be fair to the submitter, though, I understand the concern that hand-torn paper is easy to piece together

Yes, but who hasn't heard of shredders? And for that matter, who doesn't know that fire destroys paper?

Re:We're moving in the right direction (3, Funny)

Scaba (183684) | more than 9 years ago | (#12394617)

No, my friend, you are thinking of scissors. Scissors destroy paper, paper covers rock and rock breaks scissors.

Differential disposal (1)

redelm (54142) | more than 9 years ago | (#12392419)

A shredder is good for small quantities, but becomse very slow for large. I typically tear sensitive documents to separate information (name from acct number and balance) often vertically. Then dispose in recycle/trash on different pickups or to different locations.

Re:Differential disposal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12392931)

They can be slow, but they can also be manned by small children and will keep them entertained for a very long time. I used to love to shred stuff for my parents. Old medical records (my grandfather was an OB/GYN and had boxes and boxes of medical records from his practice when he died), financial records, business records.

SH

Re:Differential disposal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12393018)

my grandfather was an OB/GYN and had boxes and boxes of medical records

Did you keep the pictures?

Shredder and disposal (1)

$exyNerdie (683214) | more than 9 years ago | (#12392429)

Get a cross-cut/confetti cut shredder and then mix the shredded paper well. Then split the shreds into two or more groups and throw in trash in different locations or on different days.

Re:Shredder and disposal (1)

FidelCatsro (861135) | more than 9 years ago | (#12392453)

Then burn those location , collect the ash && goto 10

A more thorough solution (2)

Grayden (137336) | more than 9 years ago | (#12392438)

As has already been stated ad-nauseum, cross-cut shredding it the easiest option.

If you are REALLY paranoid, burning can be better, but even burning does not completely detroy a document. Skilled forensics teams can take charred pieces of documents and add chemical agents that keep them from further disintigrating. If you absolutely must completely destroy a document, burn it and then put the ashes into a bin with a bit of water and mix it until you are left with a gritty paste. Good luck putting THAT back together!

Shred and Bed (1)

TykeClone (668449) | more than 9 years ago | (#12392449)

Use the cross cut shredder as mentioned - and then donate the shredded remains to an animal shelter or a hog farmer to use as animal bedding.

Re:Shred and Bed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12392598)

I was wondering what all those charges for dog food were on my credit card bill last month.

Re:Shred and Bed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12392637)

Ha! I knew my animal shelter and hog farm was the perfect cover for my identity theft ring!

Shredding Services & PDFs (1)

Fish Heads (642181) | more than 9 years ago | (#12392462)

Look in your phone book or other directory of choice for a local shredding service. In the Twin Cities (MN) one of the services (I can't remember which, maybe Shred-It) will occasionally send a truck around to do free shredding. They park it someplace, you give then your documents and watch it go into the super-shredder in the truck. Otherwise I'm sure for a box or two of paper they won't charge very much to do the shredding.

Personally I just have a nice fine cross-cut shredder (about $100) and occasionally have a shredding day and shred tons of stuff. May take an hour or two but it is kind of fun to shred away the parts of your life that have gone by.

Both of my banks also allow PDF delivery of their statements, and have for a few years. I stopped getting paper statements then.

Re:Shredding Services & PDFs (1)

Kymermosst (33885) | more than 9 years ago | (#12394095)

Both of my banks also allow PDF delivery of their statements, and have for a few years. I stopped getting paper statements then.

Gee, It's a good thing the internet is such a secure transmission medium.

Garbage sifters not (2, Insightful)

SPQRDecker (762669) | more than 9 years ago | (#12392597)

I think you are being excessively paranoid about identity theft via stolen bank statements, stolen mail, etc. And, should this happen, this type of outright theft is very obvious and is thus the easiest to resolve. However, most identity theft happens when somebody who already knows you (ie, family, close friends) uses the information that they already have about you to open accounts in your name. This is the kind you should really watch out for, both because it is so common and since it is nearly impossible to clear up.

Re:Garbage sifters not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12393031)

Also keep prescriptions safe. I had an uncle who was stealing meds from my grandmother!

Secure document destruction (1)

WarPresident (754535) | more than 9 years ago | (#12392648)

First, shred the documents, preferably with a cross-cut or confetti-cut shredder. Second, secure the shredded documents in a burn bag and ignite. If you don't have a burn bag, construct a wire mesh container (with small holes, but sufficient gauge to not melt) to keep the burning bits of paper from floating away. Liberally spray with lighter fluid and place over an open fire.

Optionally, "wash" the shredded documents in a spin washer before burning. Ensure that the basin can be thoroughly cleaned out and that no scrap of document can be lost by draining.

Change Your Name (3, Funny)

jazman_777 (44742) | more than 9 years ago | (#12392707)

To something outrageous like Napoleon Bonaparte. Then anyone stealing your ID will be considered a loon.

Re:Change Your Name (1)

fvbommel (795367) | more than 9 years ago | (#12393184)

And so will you.

Re:Change Your Name (1)

jazman_777 (44742) | more than 9 years ago | (#12393285)

No, no, no, you don't get it! I really _am_ Napoleon!

I got out of having my identity matter. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12392712)

To the credit world I am a low wage earner. I put down Barrista on my tax return. My corporation handles my money. If you look like a small fry the id thieves leave you alone. What use is it to steal the identity of the guy who hands out catsup at Micky D's?

Inconvenience is underrated (3, Interesting)

fm6 (162816) | more than 9 years ago | (#12392781)

... I just find banks advising me to tear them up, which seems like more an inconvenience to a thief than a real preventative measure.
Don't underestimate inconvenience. An effective security measure is not one that absolutely guarantees security. (Unless you define "security" as "the illusion of perfect safety" -- which seems to be an all-too-common definition!) An effective security measure simply raises the cost of penetrating security until it's unacceptable to the potential thief, terrorist, or whatever.

Now, consider what's on your bank statement. Can the thief learn enough just by looking at your statements to pose at you? Obviously not. He can certainly use the statments to find out things you'd rather people not know. (Which is why it bothers some people that federal officials can browse online bank statements without a warrant.) And with a bit of work, he can use bank statements and other sources to assemble enough information about you to pose as you. Any inconvenience you add to the process, no matter how trivial, makes you slightly less vulnerable. The question is, how much effort should you expend to add inconvenience? To answer that, you have to consider just how much you have to protect.

I have to admit that I throw my bank statements in the trash without even tearing them up -- I have such a bad credit rating no sane person would want to steal my identity. If I were slightly better off, I would tear the statements up. If I were a lot better off, I'd buy a good shredder. And if I were really rolling in cash, I'd hire a document disposal service to convert my paper records to pulp before disposal.

But all of these measures can be circumvented. Shredded documents can be reassembled with enough patience and computer time. Sidney Bristow can use her feminine wiles to infiltrate your disposal service. You can't absolutely guarantee that nobody will steal your private records -- you can only make it not worth their while.

Re:Inconvenience is underrated (2, Informative)

josepha48 (13953) | more than 9 years ago | (#12392969)

Having a good shredder is a start. I'd suggest a cross cut shredder, or a confettie(sp) shredder.

I'd watch out for those online fake email from ebay or your bank. I have citibank, but I've never given them my email address. So getting email from citibank telling me to change my password is a phisher. Watch out for an increase in offeres for credit cards as well.

DON'T carry your social security card with you in your wallet unless you are going somewhere that you need to show it. If your wallet gets stolen taht is one way they can get your bank account number. Find out the policy of banks about identity theft. Some banks will let people steal upto 5k before they call in the feds or police. I say this, because someone I know had their wallet stolen and the guy charged up $900 on a credit card before he called in the cards missing. Then the guy cashed checks from one bank at the guys bank each in the amount of 1-2k for a total of 3 checks. The grand total was just under 5k. My friend had to prove that it was not him cashing the checks and doing this and could not close his account. Also he had his ssn in his wallet when it was stolen so that is how the theif got his bank account number. He walked into the bank and said I forgot my account number, here's my ssn.

THE BANK DIDN'T ASK FOR AN ID EITHER!

Oh btw: the bank is Wells Fargo, and the other bank that the guy was getting the checks from was BoA.

DESTROY your old checks. If they end up in the trash someone could cash them even if you closed the account. Account numbers are recycled by banks.

Bottom line is that there is only so much you can do. The rest is up to these companies we pretend to trust with our personal information.

The bigger question... (1)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | more than 9 years ago | (#12392792)

...aside from having "undesirable" credit ratings for identity theft, what the hell can you actually do to protect yourself? If all it takes is DOB, SSN, and Mother's Maiden Name-- maybe a current address as well, is there any way to protect yourself from other people and companies' incompetence?

It just seems so easy to do through absolutely no fault of your own; who should be held responsible for the problem?!

Re:The bigger question... (1)

SunFan (845761) | more than 9 years ago | (#12393050)

My CC company uses a rotating set of questions whenever I call. Occasionally, they even catch me off guard.

Don't be paranoid! (1)

SilverspurG (844751) | more than 9 years ago | (#12392909)

Don't listen to the people who advise shredding. They own stock in companies that mould the cases for the most popular shredders. The vast majority of identity thieves are NOT rooting through your garbage.

When I moved to my current address, I noticed an idiosyncracy with my proper address. The proper address is "335K Rosemary Lane". So, to run a security audit, I gave my banks and my insurance company the address of "335 Rosemary Lane Apt K". I use my proper address "335K" for most everything else, including online purchases, my driver's license, and my tax return. Anyone who obtains my address through legitimate (postal or state) means should be sending it to "335K". If it is the online merchants giving out my data then the junk will come to "335K".

Wouldn't you know ... it was less than a month after I moved in that I was receiving junk mail at "335 Rosemary Lane Apt K"?

Who do you think the real identity thieves are?

It's the very banks and insurance companies who hold up their privacy agreements high for everyone to see.

On the subject of mail.... (1)

dacarr (562277) | more than 9 years ago | (#12393189)

"355 ROSEMARY LN APT K" is proper form for that address according to the United States Postal Service. If I were you, I'd be more concerned about the USPS stealing your identity. =^^= HTH.

Re:On the subject of mail.... (1)

SilverspurG (844751) | more than 9 years ago | (#12393215)

"355 ROSEMARY LN APT K" is proper form for that address according to the United States Postal Service
Not for a condo.

Re:Don't be paranoid! (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 9 years ago | (#12393256)

335K Rosemary Lane. Who do you think the real identity thieves are?

Most likely the people who are screen-scraping slashdot for names and addresses,

Re:Don't be paranoid! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12393269)

You're right. Such a security conscious author obviously used his real data as opposed to supplying data which was perfectly analogous for the situation.

Easy - (1)

Nice2Cats (557310) | more than 9 years ago | (#12392935)

- get yourself a fireplace. Anybody who can reconstruct your papers after that is going to get you anyhow.

Simple. (1)

Eosha (242724) | more than 9 years ago | (#12392993)

1) Buy a cheap charcoal grill, charcoal, beer, and hamburger.
2) Put charcoal in grill.
3) Light the charcoal.
4) Make hamburgers.
5) When hamburgers are done, throw documents on grill.
6) Eat burgers, drink beer, and watch them burn.
7) Soak & stir the ashes if you're really paranoid.

Just go to the bank (1)

Xepo (69222) | more than 9 years ago | (#12393129)

A lot of people have suggested going to buy one of the cross-cut shredders. Another option is to simply take your bank statements to a bank (preferably a branch of your own), and ask them to shred it for ya. I'd think, if someone managed to piece together the discards of a bank, my bank statements would be the last thing they'd care to look at (unless, of course, your bank account is about 3 figures longer than mine).

I've done this with smaller stacks of paper beforem, usually just a few pages, and most of them don't mind to do it. I'd be pretty annoyed if my bank refused to shred them for me....

shred and mix (2, Informative)

mysticgoat (582871) | more than 9 years ago | (#12393166)

  1. Get a shredder. A crosscut shredder won't bulk up as much, but the cheaper ones will wear out faster than a vertical shredder.
  2. Shred one or two sheets of junk mail between each sensitive page
  3. See if you can sweet-talk your bank or employer into adding your bags of sensitive shredding to their bags of sensitive shredding

Many companies are now using secure disposal services that assure that the shredded documents are recycled into oblivion without any thief being able to get to them. If you talk it up right, your boss or your bank might think this is a great perk they could offer you (no cost to them but an obviously valuable service to you).

Sell as a perk for them (1)

bluGill (862) | more than 9 years ago | (#12393422)

When you tell someone you want to put your sensitive stuff in their shredder sell it as a perk for them. Anyone who goes after there sensitive information is unlikely to care about your. Time and effort will be wasted reconstructing your documents that are not wanted.

That's why I shred all my junk mail, not just that which is sensitive.

Re:shred and mix (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12393592)

in terms of identity theft: Portland has a bad id theft problem, and a bad meth problem. They go together - tweekers are paid in meth to reassemble shredded documents. So, if you want to be safe, pulp 'em, and/or don't trust vertical shredders.

sheesh ... the bank will dispose of them for you (1)

2TecTom (311314) | more than 9 years ago | (#12393243)

take them to your bank, they'll gladly dispose of them, they shred tons everyday

alternatively, use the yellow pages to find a local service or simply buy a shredder

surely there must be better submissions? no, well maybe more people would submit more, if there was more of a point

Destroy by whatever (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12393270)

A vert shredder of course can have its remains reassembled with much patience, but the key word is "much patience". The advantage, however, is that the remains are better tinder for incineration if you're so inclined. See fire below.

Cross cut is considered to be impossible to reassemble. If they're really that dedicated to get you on this one, they have too much spare time. Downside is that air won't get between the chaff and as such it only makes good tinder by the handful, so full bags aren't *really* suitable for incineration if you want to completely obliterate it.

Incineration is of course total, but you need to tend the fire. Remember how we learned as kids that fire requires oxygen to work? That's right, a one ream stack of paper, if neatly stacked, won't incinerate - you have to aerate the stack, so for this vert cut works wonderfully as it forces the chaff to have air pockets. You also have to make sure the charred paper disintegrates as well - as explained above, if you simply light a piece of paper on fire, you can recover the data if it's intact - but not if it's broken up. (This was even demonstrated on an episode of MacGuyver, of all things.)

An aside: one thing I recently did to some paper I needed destroyed was take it to a fire ring at a nearby beach and ignited it, and tended to the mix while it burned. The advantage here is that a prevailing wind also blew fragments of the cremains away from the ring, thus further separating it.

The whole point here is that if you destroy it, you need to be unable to recover the data. Separating the pieces (as explained in yet another comment) is an excellent way to do this, and the farther separated, the better.

Doublespeak on /. (2, Funny)

sadiklis (653366) | more than 9 years ago | (#12393474)

If it's "sharing" rather than "theft" on kazaa, then it's "identity sharing" rather than "identity theft" as well...

Re:Doublespeak on /. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12393509)

You're a moron. "Shared" identities are used to take real money from real people, not *potential* profits from the rental of infinitely reproducible bits. Yeah, IHBT.

Re:Doublespeak on /. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12397162)

Wrong try "identity fraud".

Dear Slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12393505)

How do I start my car? The dealership gave me these things they called "keys" and told me to insert them in the steering column and twist.

I don't know though. What should I do?

Every paper I don't need anymore... (0, Offtopic)

BinLadenMyHero (688544) | more than 9 years ago | (#12393574)

I fold into an airplane and throw it out the window.

All you need is a bit of creativity! (1)

homeobocks (744469) | more than 9 years ago | (#12393669)

Just but the bank statements in your sink or fireplace, burn them, crumple up the ashes and rinse them down the drain (or toilet).

Blatant Plub (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12393697)

DISCLAIMER: These guys are a client of mine.

http://www.shipnshred.com/ [shipnshred.com] is quite cost effective if you get up to about 30 lbs of material. Depending on your volume, this could be the best solution.

Plug! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12393801)

yeah. way for me to proofread

zerg (2, Informative)

Lord Omlette (124579) | more than 9 years ago | (#12393811)

A while ago, I ran into this blog story about preventing identity theft [themodulator.org] ... The "call up the credit bureaus and file a social security # fraud alert" tip is probably the best.

The Military Option (1)

Ed Almos (584864) | more than 9 years ago | (#12393905)

1) Feed all documents through a cross cut shredder, collecting the chaff into a garbage bag.

2) Take garbage bag to isolated corner of airfield.

3) Soak contents of garbage bag in jet fuel.

4) Set light to bag contents and report to commanding officer that task is complete.

If you don't have some jet fuel handy then a gallon of gas works just fine.

Ed Almos
Budapest, Hungary

obvious solution (2, Funny)

corvid13 (863313) | more than 9 years ago | (#12393965)

I can't find the URL but you can easily find it by googling. You scan your statements and email them the resulting files in whatever format you like. This site sheds the files into pieces no bigger than 3 or 4 bits each. it's really cheap and no thief without his own beawolf cluster will have a chance of reconstructing your data. good luck...

How did this make Slashdot? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12395688)

Dude, ever hear of Google? [google.com]

Apparently not.

Anyway, get a good cross-cut shredder. Shred everything. Break the shredded stuff up into two or more trash bags, and put food waste in there as well-- the greater stink potential that food waste has, the better. People will be less motivated to dig through it if it smells nasty.

Have crappy credit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12395758)

Only thing someone would get if they stole my identity are calls from collection agencies.

Go into extreme debt. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12396488)

Then file for bankruptcy. Commit a few crimes, like murder, treason, etc. You should be set after that.

Ask Slashdot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12396505)

My Mom stopped breast feeding me last week. I'm getting this strange sensation in my torso, and I have been feeling faint and weak. My throat is parched as well. I'm afraid I might die. What do you recommend I do?

One tip (1)

dtfinch (661405) | more than 9 years ago | (#12396537)

If you get an email saying it's from ebay, and it sends you to a page asking you to enter in you social security number, credit card number, mother's maiden name, birthday, driver's license number, and bank account number, don't do it. I've already gotten 4 of those this week. It's hilarious. If anyone is dumb enough to fill out their lengthy form asking for their entire life story with all the important numbers, passwords, names, dates, and addresses, they deserve whatever happens.

Keep your bills! (1)

mattbee (17533) | more than 9 years ago | (#12397171)

While plenty of people are suggesting shredding, why not just file your bank statements, phone bills and so on? They're important if you ever have a billing dispute, need to prove expenditure to your boss / the tax man, and keeping them in a ring binder or two means you don't have to worry about securely disposing of them.

The other option, as someone pointed out, is to "go paperless" -- some banks and utility companies in the UK give you a discount for opting for an "internet only" account where everything is managed through their web site, and they post you nothing. Again in the UK, we have the Data Protection Act which mandates that organizations storing personal data must supply individuals with copies of all such data relating to them for a maximum fee of £10. My previous bank sent me two reams of printouts when I asked them to a few years back (because I'd not kept records myself and had some tax issues to deal with). But it's a useful tool to ensure you don't have to keep your own records if you don't want to.

Personally I'd advocate keeping your statements, but the DPA is very useful if you need it.
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