Household Security: Tips For Paper Shredding

Tips on paper shredding for household security, including what to shred, choosing a shredder, and what to do with shredded paper for added protection.

Deadbolts, alarms, and guard dogs can't always keep a home safe. Many people are unaware of how much sensitive information they toss in the trash each day from junk mail, old bill statements, or even return addresses. It is possible to obtain credit card numbers, bank account information, and social security numbers from discarded mail and personal paperwork. Using a paper shredder, however, can drastically reduce the risk of identity theft and increase household security.

Paper Shredding: What To Shred

Nearly all types of documents contain personal information. Junk mail lists addresses and instant offers that can be used to establish internet access, pre-approved credit cards, catalog accounts, loans, and more. Old bills contain spending patterns and account numbers, and cancelled checks may have telephone numbers, driver's license information, and alternate address information. Each of these documents should be shredded to protect the privacy and security of an individual's home, credit rating, and assets.

As more people opt to work from home and establish business contacts, they generate more sensitive paperwork, including invoices, billing statements, business letterhead stationery, and personnel files. Shredding this paperwork not only protects the clients and employees involved, but also protects the business owner from potential lawsuits for improper security.

Even personal paperwork can contain sensitive information. Letters and cards include the return addresses of family and friends and offer an abundance of detail about habits, acquaintances, nicknames, and birthdates that can be used for impersonation. A child's report card includes student identification numbers, addresses, telephone numbers, grades, and other information that poses a potential risk if used by an unauthorized person. Shredding this paperwork helps protect the privacy and identity of family and friends.

Overall, any document with personal information, whether it's an address, telephone number, e-mail address, or account number, should be shredded. Even a small piece of information that may be insignificant on its own can offer clues to invade an individual's privacy or perpetuate identity theft. Using a paper shredder heightens household security and helps eliminate this risk.

Paper Shredding: Types of Shredders

Different types of paper shredders offer different features and levels of security. A strip-cut shredder is the most common variety, and slices paper into strips from one-eighth to one-half inch thick. The smaller the strip size, the harder it is to reassemble the paper. Confetti-cut shredders, also called cross-cut shredders, slice paper horizontally and vertically, making smaller fragments. This lowers the volume of the shredded paper, so that the bag or basket does not need to be emptied as frequently. These shredders offer more security, but are more expensive and may require more maintenance than a strip-cut shredder. Disintegrator shredders offer the highest security because the paper is reduced to tiny pieces or even powder, but these models are prohibitively expensive for home use and are not typically necessary for household security.

When selecting an appropriate shredder, it is important to consider several different features. Most users underestimate the volume of paper they will shred, and it is better to purchase a shredder that is a bit too large rather than pay higher maintenance costs because a small shredder is overworked. A shredder's volume refers to the number of pages per day it can easily shred, and even the smallest shredders can often handle fifty sheets daily - plenty of capacity for personal paperwork. If you have a home office or business, however, you may want to consider a larger model that can handle the greater volume generated from invoices and client information. If more than one person will be using the shredder, a greater volume will be needed as well.

A shredder's capacity refers to the number of pages that can be shredded at once. Most shredders can accommodate four or five pages at once, but some commercial models can shred up to twenty-five pages at a time. Exceeding the recommended capacity can lead to a jam and damage the shredder, so be certain to account for folded papers and heavier weights such as cardstock or file folders while shredding. The throat, or opening, of the shredder can also affect its capacity, because if it is too small, papers will need to be folded to properly fit into the machine.

While most shredders can accommodate staples and paper clips, it is wiser to remove them first. Metal pieces dull the shredder's blades, and whenever the shredder is being repaired, papers accumulate without being shredded and become a potential security risk. Some shredders can even shred credit cards and CDs, but use caution when feeding these items into the machine.

Shredders come in a variety of sizes, styles, and colors. Handheld models can handle just a sheet or two at a time, but they can be adequate for a single person or small family. Larger models fit over an existing trash can or come equipped with a bin. For household safety, be sure the shredder is unplugged or out of reach of children and pets when it is not needed. All shredders need periodic oiling to help eliminate dust and buildup on the blades that can lead to a jam or other mechanical problems. The proper lubricant can be found at office supply stores.

Paper Shredders: Added Security

With enough perseverance, it is possible to reconstruct shredded documents. For additional security, mix shredded paper with other trash (preferably wet or greasy material) before discarding. Paper shreds can also be used as kindling, shipping materials, or even bedding for small animals. This will further discourage anyone from reconstructing papers to obtain sensitive information.

Identity theft is a growing problem that affects millions of people each year. Credit card applications, statements, and receipts are the most common types of paperwork used for identity theft, and recovering an identity can take weeks of effort and thousands of dollars in fees and reinstatement costs. Shredding documents that contain personal information greatly increases household security and can help protect friends, family members, and even children. Paper shredders are available in many styles and sizes, but with proper use they all increase privacy and help every home be a bit more secure.

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