Don't be a recycling identity theft victim

Rip up or shred sensitive documents before you get rid of them

Published: March 22, 2014 08:00 AM
Payroll information and other sensitive documents we found at a public recycling facility.

Would you want strangers to know how much you earn? Read about the recent medical services you received? Or see that your insurer is threatening to cancel your auto policy for nonpayment?

If you're simply throwing this and other sensitive paperwork into the recycling bin, that's exactly the type of information you're exposing to the world. And identity thieves may be targeting recycled paperwork to obtain peoples' personal information.

In just one New York town's public recycling facility we found payroll stubs, credit card offers, medical billing statements, late payment notices, and more, all with recipients' names, addresses, and account numbers. During our visits, the recycling facility was busy with people coming and going, and the documents were in the paper recycling bin available to anyone who wanted them.

Here are examples of what we found:

  • A deposit statement, including a non-negotiable direct deposit payroll check for $5,013, along with the person's year-to-date earnings and withholding.
  • A  medical billing statement with 13 pages of charges for office visits and procedures, including blood tests, a chest x-ray, and electrocardiograms.
  • A  monthly mortgage billing statement, including $178 in late-payment charges.
  • A  retirement earnings statement, including a non-negotiable direct deposit check for $878 and year-to-date earnings.
  • An auto insurance cancellation notice from Geico.

Even if the info can't be used to steal your identity, you probably don't want your neighbors knowing such personal information.

 What to do: When recycling old paperwork, carefully tear it up or, even better, shred it. 

Anthony Giorgianni

E-mail Newsletters

FREE e-mail Newsletters! Choose from cars, safety, health, and more!
Already signed-up?
Manage your newsletters here too.

Money News


Cars Build & Buy Car Buying Service
Save thousands off MSRP with upfront dealer pricing information and a transparent car buying experience.

See your savings


Mobile Get Ratings on the go and compare
while you shop

Learn more