Even as paperless technology becomes more popular, there are still times and places that you’ll receive actual paper documents. That raises the big question: What should I do with this paperwork?
All of our documents have their own lifespans for when you need to keep them handy. But once that time has come and gone, it’s wise to shred those documents. Every one of your documents contains personal information. If that information ends up in the wrong hands, then that can be bad news for you and your identity. You may even be surprised that just because you throw a document away doesn’t mean you’re fully protected. It’s legal for people to go through other’s garbage, which can give them access to your discarded personal documents.
That’s where shredding comes in handy. The old wives’ tale is keep all documents for seven years, but that’s not always the case. Some documents should be destroyed much sooner than others, while others should not be destroyed at all.
Documents to destroy immediately
Make sure to immediately shred all credit card offers and mail offers you receive to prevent fraudsters from opening accounts in your name. Also, shred all documents after you make a credit card or utility payment. If you have a warranty receipt then keep that handy, but all other receipts, including ATMs and gas receipts should be shredded right away.
Documents to shred within a year
Hold onto your bank statements1 pay stubs, and paid medical bills for up to a year. That allows you to dispute anything that may be wrong. After that, send them to the shredder.
Documents to shred after seven years
The IRS recommends you to keep tax documents for up to seven years2 After that timeframe, feel free to properly destroy those old tax documents, as well as documents used to support those tax documents.
What about expired federal documents?
Many important documents have expiration dates to ensure they are up to date. Once those expire, then you should shred them one you have your updated version. These documents include passports, driver’s licenses, birth certificate copies, and insurance policies.
Quick list of documents to shred:
- Address labels from junk mail and magazines
- All Discarded Copier Copies
- ATM receipts
- Bank statements
- Birth certificate copies
- Canceled and voided checks
- Credit and charge card bills, carbon copies, summaries and receipts
- Credit reports and histories
- Credit Cards (Expired)
- Documents containing maiden name
- Documents containing names, addresses, phone numbers or e-mail addresses
- Documents relating to investments
- Documents containing passwords or PIN numbers
- Driver’s licenses or items with a driver’s license number
- Drafted Documents
- Education Records
- Employee pay stubs
- Employment records
- Expired passports and visas
- Identification cards/badges
- Legal documents
- Insurance Information
- Internal Memos
- Investment, stock and property transactions
- Items with a signature
- Luggage tags
- Medical and dental records
- Papers with a Social Security number
- Payroll Information
- Pre-approved credit card applications
- Phone Logs
- Phone Messages
- Purchase Orders
- Receipts with checking account numbers
- Report cards
- Resumes or curriculum vitae
- Tax forms
- Travel itineraries
- Used airline tickets
- Visitor Logs
Not all documents should be shredded
Some documents are permanent records, meaning you should never shred or discard them3. Keep these specific documents secure in safe deposit boxes, fire-proof safes, or locked file cabinets.
- Birth certificates or adoption papers
- Social Security cards
- Citizenship papers or passports
- Marriage or divorce decrees
- Death certificates of family members
- Auto titles and home deeds for as long as you own the property