4 Documents You Should Be Shredding and When

The Federal Trade Commission shared that 1.4 million people reported identity theft in 2021. It’s important to be aware that our personal information is valuable, and there are people out there who will exploit it to make money.

You can take steps to protect yourself. One of the easiest ways to keep safe is by shredding sensitive documents. But what documents should you shred, and when? Here are a few to get you started:

1. Paid Bills

When to Shred: Immediately

Your paid bills including utilities, electricity, and internet services contain your personal information. They may include your address, name, and more. Once a bill has been paid, it’s probably a good idea to shred it. 

2. Pay Stubs

When to Shred: After one year

It’s best to keep your pay stubs for up to a year for tax returns, but after that, it’s a great idea to shred them. These are especially dangerous documents in the wrong hands, so be sure to keep them safe while holding onto them.

3. Credit Card Offers

When to Shred: Immediately

Do you have a pile of junk mail including credit card offers? It’s a good idea to shred them as soon as they make it to your mailbox.

4. Tax Records

When to Shred: 3-7 years

Tax returns can get a bit more complicated. They have a lot of your personal information, but they might be something you need to reference in the future. Make sure to consult with your tax professional or reference the IRS website before getting rid of any tax documents.

Luckily, the IRS has published information on how long you should hold on to your old tax records:

  • In general, need to hold onto your income tax records 3 years after filing
  • Keep any employment tax records for at least 4 years after the taxes were due or paid—whichever is later
  • If you haven’t reported income that should be reported and it is more than 25% of the gross income shown on your tax return, you should keep the return for at least 6 years after filing
  • If you file a claim for a loss that was from worthless securities or bad debt deduction, keep your records for at least 7 years
  • Keep your tax records indefinitely if you did not file a return or filed a fraudulent one

These aren’t all the documents you should get rid of, but it’s a good start. Now the next step: where to shred. It’s a great idea to have a personal shredder at home, but there are also plenty of safe places to drop your documents off for destruction. For example, we hold an annual Shred Week event at all Western State Bank locations for customers to drop off old documents for secure shredding and disposal free of charge.

Check out additional information privacy and cybersecurity tips in other related articles on our website.