Keep Your Identity Safe: What to Shred and What to Keep

March is Fraud Prevention Month and an important topic when it comes to fraud prevention is what documents to keep and for how long. Between receipts, pay stubs, property deeds, and business documents, it can be difficult to decipher what you should hang on to and what you should turf. Here are a few helpful hints to help you figure out when to shred important documents to keep your personal information secure:


1. Pay stubs and medical receipts.

When it comes to pay stubs and medical receipts, you really don’t need to keep them for longer than a year. As soon as you receive your T4, or equivalent, and verify that the information on it is correct by referencing your paystubs, it’s OK to shred them. Since these paystubs contain a mountain of personal information, make sure they’re shredded and not simply recycled. If possible, use a cross shredder to ensure they’ve been disposed of securely.


Medical receipts are another item you can shred after a year. Hanging on to them for a year ensures you have the appropriate information to back up insurance claims in case of a dispute. After that year, they can be disposed of securely.


2. Receipts, bills, etc.

We have a tendency to hang on to various receipts and bills but this is completely unnecessary. Unless you think you might want to return something or the item is under warranty, shred your receipts. This is especially true when it comes to ATM receipts, which are not necessary for your personal records.


3. Investment statements.

When it comes to your monthly or quarterly investment statements, review them and make sure they’re all correct then shred them! Really, the only documents you need to hang onto when it comes to investments are your annual statements, which should be filed away with T4’s and the like.


3. Wills, Deeds, Life Insurance Policies, Pension Plans.<

When it comes to long-term documents like life insurance policies, pension plans, property acquisitions, wills, and powers of attorney, it’s important to keep these documents indefinitely. These documents should either be kept in a fire and flood proof container or in a safety deposit box at your bank.


4. Tax Return Information.

Anyone who’s been audited by the CRA can tell you that keeping information relating to your tax returns for six years is worthwhile. Documents such as your T4, T5, or T2202 should be stored safely for six years after you file your taxes. After that, you should shred them safely to prevent identity theft and fraud.


Digital Backups.

If you’ve backed up any of your valuable documents in digital formats, make sure you’re disposing of these backups in a secure way. When it comes to hard drives, the best way to dispose of them securely is to wipe them and destroy them, rendering them unusable. This protects you from identity theft by ensuring that no one can access your sensitive data. Of course, this might not be practical if you’re reselling or repurposing a device but keep it in mind when simply disposing of one.


With these guidelines, you should be ready to safely manage a wide variety of personal documents. Most importantly, make sure that when you’re disposing of documents, you do so using a shredder or other secure method that renders the data unusable.

By Mike Agerbo

February 28, 2017