I'll admit that years ago (before I was a professional organizer) I just threw documents I didn't need into the trash or recycle bin. I thought, "who would want to go through my trash and then try to scam me?"
Yes, your trash is worth money to someone else. And that someone else wants to use it to try to take your money and use your identity.
Well, now I have learned that there are people out there who will do that. Identity theft is increasing every single year and criminals are becoming more and more sophisticated in how they get access to your information, accounts, and identity. There's even a whole "dark web" which is an underground online marketplace where criminals sell people's information to others.
I also learned that as a general rule, it is legally permissible to go through the trash of another person. There was even a U.S. Supreme Court case about it where they said that regarding trash left outside, there is "no reasonable expectation of privacy."
Without trying to get into all the legal mumbo-jumbo, here's what you need to know: Once you put out your trash and recycle bin, it's a freebie to anyone who wants it. Granted, I know that there are not bad people hiding in the bushes every night to go through your trash. However, it can happen and there are some super easy ways to protect yourself.
So, get yourself a shredder that you can use at home. If you want a super inexpensive option that gets great reviews, I recommend this AmazonBasics Shredder [Affiliate Link: I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post. I only recommend items that I would recommend to my best friend and I include the links in my blog posts to make it easier for you to find the products and services that would best support you].
Here's my home office and how I organize what needs to be recycled versus shredded.
The way to protect yourself is to shred documents that contain any kind of personal information. Here’s a little checklist. If it contains any of this information, you are better off shredding it.
• Your name, address and phone number
• Your social security number
• Your banking or credit card information
• Medical information
• Insurance information
• Companies where you have accounts
• Your signature
• Information about others in your family
• Voided checks
• Credit cards
• CDs of Data
For your paper you are about to discard, remember this, “When in doubt, shred it.”
You will not regret protecting your identity, information, and assets.