10 Surprising Things You Should Be Tossing in the Shredder

5 min read
Document Shredder

Did you know that once trash is off your property, it’s legal for anyone to take? Yep, it’s true. That being the case, it’s quite easy to see how someone can steal another’s identity. With that said, here are some surprising things you should shred instead of just tossing in the garbage.

10. Prescription Labels

Prescription Bottle
Source: Wikimedia Commons By JCRules [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

You might not think there’s anything important on a prescription label, but you’d be mistaken to believe such a thing. Thieves can use the information on your prescription medication bottle to refill prescriptions to sell them on the black market or to feed their drug habit. They can also use the information to steal your identity.

TIP: Before throwing away any prescription medication bottles, take any leftover pills to a drug collection site. Then, remove the label and shred it.

9. Junk Mail

Junk Mail
Source: Wikimedia Commons By Pretzelpaws at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)]

That junk mail may be nothing more than that to you, but to a thief it can be a treasure trove. Credit card offers are tempting to thieves, as they can sign up for pre-approved loans or start a line of credit in your name. But, it’s not just the letter inside that you need to worry about. What’s on that return envelope inside can be cause for alarm as well. That’s because junk mail return envelopes usually have a barcode on the front that contains personally identifying information about you.

When it comes to junk mail, there are two things you can do to protect yourself: 1) shred ALL junk mail, including the return envelope provided with it, or 2) opt out of receiving junk mail by following the instructions from the Federal Trade Commission.

8. Coupons

Source: Wikimedia Commons By Carol Pyles from Winter Haven, FL, US (Coupon Pile Stock Photo) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

Before you work yourself up into a panic over those coupons you get in your newspaper each week, take a deep breath and relax. We’re not talking about those kinds of coupons. We’re talking about those personalized coupons sent straight to you from your favorite store. Those stores send them to you to determine whether or not sending you coupons gets you to make a purchase. Unfortunately, these coupons contain sensitive information about you, including your name, address, and other personal data.

TIP: If you’re not going to use them, shred them.

7. Boarding Passes

Boarding Pass
Source: Wikimedia Commons By Catherine from Australia [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

Once you land, it’s best to shred your boarding pass. That’s because it has your name, travel plans, and a barcode that thieves can use to hack your airline accounts and/or steal your identity. Not only that, but they can use that information to rob your home while you’re away.

-Shred printable confirmations and trip itineraries, too. They also contain your account information.
-ProShred, a shredding service company, recommends shredding your luggage tags, too. They contain sensitive information about you as well.

6. Death Announcements

Source: Wikimedia Commons

It’s best to shred any extra funeral pamphlets or obituaries you don’t plan on saving. These documents are often used by thieves to steal someone’s identity. In fact, an article published by Reader’s Digest says that “thieves use the identities of millions of deceased people every year to apply for loans, open credit card accounts or file tax returns, collecting billions of dollars in refunds.”

-When your loved ones pass, don’t list their birth date nor their mother’s maiden name in the obituary.
-DO NOT shred documents that are still active (wills, property deeds, etc.).
-While you’re at it, you might want to go ahead and shred any birth announcements you have, too. And, make sure you keep your kids’ date of birth off social media. Also, minimize use of your children’s social security numbers.

5. Documents Containing Your Signature

Source: Pixabay

Contracts, memos, debit/credit card receipts, letters and anything else with your official signature should be shredded. Anyone who obtains a copy of your signature can open accounts in your name or use your existing accounts to make unauthorized purchases. Plus, debit/credit card receipts not only include your signature, but the last four digits of your card number as well.

It’s not just important records that should be shredded. The experts at ProShred and Fireproof Records, another shredding service company, suggests shredding birthday cards, too. In other words, if it has your signature and it’s something you no longer need, shred it!

4. Resumes

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Before you toss out that resume, make sure you shred it first. These documents contain your name, address, phone number, employment history, education history, and everything else crooks can use to steal your identity.

Now, of course you don’t want to get rid of your current resume. So what you’d need to do is store copies of it in a safe place — perhaps on a password-protected computer. As for your outdated resumes, shred them ASAP! After all, there’s no sense in hanging on to something that’s outdated.

TIP: Shred old job applications, too.

3. Catalogs and Magazines

Source: Pixabay

Now before you go tossing the whole thing into the shredder, it’s important to note that you should only shred part of those catalogs and magazines you get in the mail. What part are we talking about? The part with your name and address. You know, that personalized label. Also, check inside the catalog for order forms before tossing it out. Those pre-filled order forms make it a cinch for you to make a purchase, but unfortunately they also make fraud and identity theft easy as well.

2. Packing Receipts and Labels

Packing Label
Source: Wikimedia Commons By Talibro [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

Pre-printed address labels, including those free return labels you receive in the mail, should be shredded as soon as you receive them since they contain your name and address. Thieves can compare this data with information you post on social media to piece together your identity.
But, don’t forget about those packing receipts inside the box. They have your name and address listed on them, plus barcodes containing your personal information. Plus, they may also reference your credit card number or other payment details.

TIP: Omit your name when writing your return address on an envelope.

1. Anything Involving Your Child

Report Card
Source: Wikimedia Commons

As we stated earlier, it’s a good idea to shred your children’s birth announcements. But, don’t just stop there. Shred anything that involves your child. This could be mail, medical records, or school information, including report cards. Children are especially vulnerable to identity theft. In fact, they’re 51 percent more likely than adults to become victims of identity theft — in part because most parents don’t think to check their child’s credit report. As a result, these thieves can do a lot of damage before the crime is even discovered.


Now that you know the importance of shredding everyday items, here’s how long you should hang on to important documents before shredding them.