Paper Shredders and Identity Theft

Identity theft is becoming more prevalent in today’s world. One tool that can be used to effectively fight identity theft is the paper shredder. An identity theft criminal can compromise your personal information by sifting through your trash. The same can hold true by sifting through corporate documents that have also been discarded. Destroying discarded documents has become a necessity for many. If burning unused documents is not a viable option, then they can be shredded.

Why purchase a paper shredder?

A paper shredder is basically a simple mechanical device that cuts up paper into small pieces or thin strips. In order to protect your sensitive information, you should destroy documents such as:

• Bank statements
• Tax documents
• Utility and other bills
Credit card statements
• Any documents that feature personal information

One should also bear in mind that documents in your trash can make their way to foreign countries. This happens when municipal disposal services transport trash outside local jurisdictions. This frees up local dumps and incinerators. In foreign landfills the locals can go through the garbage and retrieve personal information.

Paper shredders are relatively inexpensive and a lightweight personal shredder runs about $40. These are designed to shred standard paper documents. Heavy-duty shredders can also be obtained to shred DVDs, CDs, etc. These shredders will run about $600. Paper shredders are also available in different types. Some will just cut documents into strips. But there are also high security shredders that can shred documents into very small particles.

Things to consider when purchasing a shredder

One of the very first things to consider when buying a shredder is safety. A shredder can be a safety hazard if not used properly. Each year, fingers are damaged or lost due to the misuse of shredders. This holds especially true of young children. Therefore, it’s important to take note of the safety features of any shredder that you wish to purchase. Fortunately there are many good safety features that can be found on many different models of shredders.

One of the best safety features to be found are sensors that will shut the shredder off. The sensors react when fingers come near the paper insertion opening. Other safety features include extra thin paper openings. Child-proof safety locks are also a good measure. Safety flaps can prevent contact with the paper cutter blades when the shredder head is removed from its basket. An interlock switch can keep the head from being turned on if not seated in its basket. All of these features are recommended and can be found in quality shredders.

Identity theft security feature levels

In order to indicate the level of shredder security, standards have been defined. These indicators determine proper use for the shredder based on residential, commercial or government standards. These standards are, as follows:

• Level 1 – paper is cut into 12 mm strips
• Level 2 – paper is cut into 6 mm strips
• Level 3 – (confidential) – paper is cut into 2 mm strips
• Level 4 – (commercially sensitive) – paper is shredded into 2mm x 15 mm particles
• Level 5 – (Top Secret or Classified) – paper is shredded into 0.8mm x 12mm particles
• Level 6 – (Top Secret or Classified) – paper is shredded into 0.8mm x 4 mm particles

Also, it’s best to purchase a shredder that is rated at a higher level than what you think you’ll need. This is due to the ratings sometimes being a bit too optimistic. You might as well also get one that shreds credit cards, CDs, etc.

For convenience, make sure the waste bin isn’t difficult to empty. As a final tip, get one with reverse and auto-stop/start modes. The reverse mode is handy for clearing out paper jams. The auto start mode will automatically turn the shredder on when the paper is inserted.

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