Confession: I love bringing order to chaos. From the garage to the kitchen cabinets to the bedroom closet, I love pulling everything out to be sorted and organized.Throw in some post-it notes, markers and empty boxes into the room and you won’t see me until dinner. The ultimate rewards are reducing clutter to the essentials, preventing identity theft, and making it much easier to find things when you need them on the first try.
Paperwork piles up quickly between statements, credit card applications and the various notices that seem to arrive in the mail daily. Add these to the items you’ve been hanging on to (pay stubs, ATM receipts, and travel itineraries), and it’s daunting to know where to start. Safe handling of sensitive, confidential paperwork increases identity theft prevention so you really have to stay on top of things. The hardest part is usually getting started, so grab a few post-it notes, markers and boxes, and let’s get going.
I typically divide papers into three categories: 1) items to be kept long term, 2) items to be kept for a specific time period, and then 3) those that can go.
The first group includes important documents that need to be filed safely and securely in a fire-safe box or even better, a safe deposit box. Here is where you need to store any and all of these legal documents:
- Birth, death certificates
- Adoption records
- Marriage license
- Business license
- Divorce decree
- Social Security Cards
- Pension plan documents
- Any insurance policy
- Living wills
- Powers of attorney
- Vehicle titles and loan documents
- House deeds and mortgage documents
- Academic records, diplomas, transcripts
The next group contains items that should be saved for a specific time period:
- Tax records and receipts (seven years)
- Pay stubs and bank statements (one year or until you receive your W-2)
- Home purchase, sale or improvement documents (six years after sell date)
- Medical records and bills (one year after final payment in case of dispute)
- Warranty documents and receipts (until warranty expires or as long as you own item)
These items can be limited to your most recent statements:
- Social security
- Annual insurance policy
- Retirement plan
This last group are the items that should be disposed of properly and include anything that has personal information such as your name, address, phone number, social security number, or bank account information.
- ATM receipts
- Bank statements
- Birth certificate copies
- Canceled and voided checks
- Credit card bills
- Credit reports
- Expired DL, IDs, visas, passports, credit cards
- Pre-approved credit card applications
- Transcripts with identifying information on them
- Used airline tickets
- Utility bills (telephone, gas, electric, water, cable TV, Internet)
Now that you’ve determined what can be pulled from your files, don’t just throw them into the recycling bin. Instead take them to be shredded at a Community Shred Event hosted by Dane County Credit Union this summer. In exchange for donating a non-perishable food item to the Community Action Coalition, DCCU and Pellitteri will safely and securely dispose of your sensitive documents. Check here for current dates.
If you’re not ready to shred everything (taxes, for example) and aren’t able to keep everything in a safe deposit box, consider scanning it. Save your digital files in encrypted form on a flash drive or memory stick and store that in your safe deposit box. Done and done.
Now, breathe easy.