Identity theft: Be careful when purging sensitive documents

A lot of people start the new year by cleaning house. If that’s your annual tradition, the Better Business Bureau reminds you to do it safely.

Be careful how you throw away documents. “Be very careful about what sensitive documents and personally identifiable information you may also be purging as you look at getting rid of old records,” said Greg Dunn of the Better Business Bureau Hawaii.

According to the FBI, identity theft is the fastest-growing white-collar crime in the U.S. In 2014, $16 billion was stolen from 12.7 million Americans.

Dunn said thieves like anything they could use to impersonate you, “anything that has a social security number, phone records, utility bills, and credit card statements.”

A couple of precautions you can take is shred your papers and your plastic, and make sure you’re safely storing your documents.

“If you’re discarding computers, cell phones, or digital data, you may want to ask a professional to make sure it’s wiped clean,” said Dunn. “Also, check that you have good anti-virus software on your computer and regularly check for updates.”

Don’t give thieves any information about yourself — only save emails you need and empty out email trash, unsubscribe from newsletters or alerts you no longer need, and empty your computer’s recycle bin.

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