• December 22, 2014

Don’t become a victim of identity theft

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Posted: Sunday, October 7, 2012 4:30 am | Updated: 8:59 pm, Sat Aug 3, 2013.

Better Business Bureau’s Shred Day, offering free on-site document shredding and cellphone and computer recycling, is coming up Oct. 27, which falls on the last day of Identity Theft Protection Week.

While gearing up for this year’s event, I remembered talking to a woman at last year’s Shred Day.

She told me about her experience after her identity was stolen. Closing fraudulent accounts opened in her name was only the beginning of her plight. She had to put a freeze on her credit and jump through endless hoops in order to sort out the fake accounts from the ones she needed to live her life.

Even after all of that, it took a long time before her credit report was accurately reporting her credit worthiness to banks and other lenders. It was a seemingly endless nightmare, and what’s worse, she didn’t even know how the thieves got her personal information.

Criminals can access your information in a myriad of ways, from computer tricks, to stealing credit cards and personal documents, to scamming victims over the phone. You can protect yourself from most of these scams by remaining diligent about protecting your identity.

BBB recommends you shred all sensitive documents, never carry your Social Security card, never give out personal information over the phone or to unknown people and avoid suspicious links while online.

For consumers looking to securely dispose of their sensitive documents, BBB is holding its second annual, free to the public, Shred Day event at First National Bank Texas, 2201 Trimmier Road in Killeen, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 27.

Consumers can bring two boxes or bags of sensitive documents to shred, as well as cellphones, old computers and other electronic items to be recycled. Documents will be destroyed and computer hard drives will be crushed on-site. For event details, go to www.centraltx.bbb.org/shred.

BBB also advises consumers have a document retention schedule. BBB offers the following suggestions:

  • Insurance documentation: Keep everything as long as you have the policy. Also save any paperwork regarding unresolved claims/coverage.
  • Keep utility, cellphone and similar bills only until you receive confirmation that your payment has been processed. The only exception to this is if you are self-employed. Self-employed people should keep these records longer so they can prove any deductions on their tax forms.
  • Loan documentation: Keep all paperwork until you pay off the loan. Then, you can shred everything except the document that proves you paid in full.
  • Monthly bank statements: Find out how much time your bank and/or credit cards give you to challenge incorrect statements. Keep them until you are no longer able to challenge them. This is typically from 60 days to one year after the mistake is made.

Keep one year:

  • Paycheck stubs: Don’t throw away your paycheck stubs until you receive your annual W-2 form from your employer. If everything matches, feel free to shred your pay stubs. Then, keep your W-2 forms for at least a few years.

Keep three years:

  • Bank statements
  • Expired insurance policies

Keep seven years:

  • Tax returns, canceled checks/receipts, records for tax deductions taken. The IRS has six years to challenge your return if it thinks that you underreported your gross income by 25 percent or more.

Keep forever:

  • All paperwork related to bankruptcy, inheritance and wills.

Auditor’s reports.

  • House/Condominium records: It is a good idea to keep documents of expenditures related to house/condominium improvements. Capital purchases that improve or enhance the value of your home when you sell your property may lower your capital gains tax.
  • IRA contribution records: If you made a nondeductible contribution to an IRA plan, such as a Roth IRA, keep your records to show that you were already taxed for this money.

For consumer information, reports on businesses or charities, to schedule a speaker or to file a complaint on a company, go to www.centraltx.bbb.org or call (254) 699-0694.

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