Sioux Falls, SD
If you haven't been the victim of identity theft, you may be in the minority. ID theft affects 11 million people a year and costs about $54 billion.
One way to avoid it is to buy a shredder to destroy documents with your personal information on it and keep them out of the hands of thieves.
Most people hold onto their old tax returns; the question is for how long?
"Those can be kept three to four years in case you get audited. After three to four years make sure you shred that. Not only is your Social Security number on it, but your dependents and spouse's Social Security number, so that's a treasure trove for anybody trying to steal your personal information," Jim David of the Better Business Bureau said.
Next shred any bank statements, or anything with your bank account number, especially those old boxes of cancelled checks. To avoid having to shred them altogether, switch to online statements.
You'll also want to shred your pay stub because it contains a wealth of personal information and get rid of those credit card offers you get in the mail.
"Often times identity theft is not caused by somebody on the outside. It's often caused by somebody on the inside; someone in your family. It's important to shred credit card offers just to protect yourself," David said.
And you know those convenience checks you get in the mail from your credit card company? Don't hold onto them.
"Those convenience checks are another great example; so easy to forge. If you're not going to use them, shred them," David said.
Also put old credit cards and photo IDs through the shredder too.
"You want to make sure it cuts your magnetic strip length ways, not cross ways so that can no longer be used. If you're not using a credit card, contact the company and let them know instead of just leaving that out there," David said.
A good cross-cut shredder runs about $30.
And if you're shredder can't handle plastic, cut up the card into several pieces and throw them away in different trash bags.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
A misspelling was corrected in this story.