Shred those documents

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 3, 2006

I was glad to learn from the news media last week that I can take action to reduce the pre-approved credit card junk mail from reaching me through the mail. This process will also reduce the possibility of identity fraud.

These cards just keep coming, and some continuously come from the same banks and credit card companies faster than I can tear them up and throw them in the trash. I learned that I have the chance to spare my fingers and my temper from constantly receiving them; however, tearing them up was the worst thing to do and it definitely puts me in a much greater risk of identity fraud no matter how small the torn pieces.

I learned from the news report that the only safe way to destroy important outdated or unwanted material is to buy a shredder. My son has always had one, but I never took the time to use it. I will from now on.


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The main way to eliminate this material is to register with a Web site called opt-out, the credit card version of the do-not-call list. The news report stated that this should be enough to stop getting all of that pre-approved junk mail. This site was especially designed to make it easy for you to get off mailing and telemarketing lists and to limit the sale of your personal information by businesses.

Typically, when you opt-out, you are not actually taken off a list, but added to a list of people that do not want their personal information shared with other companies, or who do not want to receive telemarketing calls or direct mail. For more information, go on the Web site at

To further prove that a credit card application can be activated, no matter how small torn pieces are, the report revealed a man tearing an application to shreds and then taking the time to put the pieces back together. He then entered his father’s name and address on the application and sent it back to the bank that sent him the document. About a week later, he said that his father called to tell him that he received an activated credit card in the mail with a credit line up to the limit offered by the bank.

The man called the bank that approved the application and officials there said that the application was electronically scanned and no one processing it may have noticed the tattered condition of the paper.

If you also discard identify-theft material in your trash, and think no one will stoop to snooping in it, drive or walk down just about any street on

trash-pickup day and watch the many people ransacking in those trash containers. It is a sad sight. Therefore, it is safer to buy and to use a shredder.

Other identify theft precautions offered were as follows:

n Do not put your first name on checks, so that if your checkbook is ever stolen, the person will not know how you sign your first name or your check.

n Photo copy the contents of your wallet, so that if it does get stolen, you will have all information that it contains.

n Write or call magazines you subscribe to and ask them not to release your mailing information when they make subscription lists available.

n Write all companies that you do business with regularly, such as your bank, telephone company, other utilities, video rental store, grocery store etc., and ask that they do not distribute your personal information.

n Ask for an unlisted telephone number, that will cost a small amount of money on your telephone bill, and ask that it not be included in the telephone directory.

After all, your good name and your identity are two of the most precious possessions that you have. Don’t let someone else use and abuse it.

But most importantly, don’t let your trash container be the result of someone else obtaining his or her treasure.

Wall is a former News-Herald reporter and regular contributor to the Town Square page.