Buying Advice: Personal Paper Shredders

Tips on why to buy a shredder for your home office, including identity theft and fraud prevention and reducing clutter. Also included are features of modern shredders and list of document that should be shredded.

In today's world, it is more important than ever to do what you can to protect yourself from identity theft and fraud. One of the simplest ways to reduce your risk of identity theft is to shred old paperwork or mail that has your personal information printed on it.

Many people just throw old billing statements in the trash, enabling a thief or trash picker to have easy access to their name, mailing address, social security number or billing account numbers. By investing in a paper shredder for your home, you will be taking an important step in protecting your personal information.

What type of paper shredder do you need?

Personal paper shredders come in a variety of sizes and price ranges. Strip-cut models, which shred the paper into long, thin strips, are generally less expensive than cross-cut models, which shred the paper crosswise into smaller pieces. The price range for personal shredders can run anywhere from under 20 dollars to upwards of several hundred dollars, depending upon the features that you need. For light duty home use, you can expect to find a good quality paper shredder for under $50.

Features to look for

If you plan to shred anything more than plain paper, opt for a higher-powered model with extra features. Many low budget shredder models are not equipped to handle stapled pages or heavy duty items such as card stock and credit cards.

Be sure to check the paper capacity of the model you intend to buy. If you plan to shred daily, you may only need to use a shredder that can take 3 to 5 pages at a time. If you plan to shred once a month, you may find that you have a large pile of paperwork accumulated and may prefer a model that can handle 15 or more pages at a time.

Automatic start/stop as well as a reverse button are common features on shredders. The automatic "start" feature will signal the shredder to begin shredding once it senses the paper. The reverse feature is helpful if your shredder becomes jammed (it spits the paper back up).

Make sure you choose a shredder that is wide enough to handle the paper size that you plan to shred. The most common "throat" size for a personal shredder is 9". This should accommodate most household documents.

Some shredders fit across the top of a regular trash can, while other types come with their own wastebaskets. If you plan to shred frequently, you may prefer the convenience of a shredder with a built-in trashcan.

Where to buy

You can purchase paper shredders at office supply stores, discount stores or on the internet. Because there are so many types of shredders to choose from, be sure to research before you buy to find the model that will best suit your needs.

Items that you should shred:

-- Store receipts that have your debit or credit card information on them (shred these after they appear on your billing statement)

-- Bank statements and pay stubs older than 12 months

-- Old credit cards (shred once you receive a new card in the mail or after you cancel an account)

-- Offers for credit cards or clubs

-- Any junk mail or old billing statements with your name, address or account numbers on it

--Anything that contains your social security number

Finally, take the time to select the right paper shredder for your needs. Don't automatically go for the least expensive model-- you may find that you have a higher volume of shredding than you anticipated. Using a model that can't handle your volume of shredding may cause it to jam frequently.

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