What To Shred (And When)

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You know the importance of shredding junk mail and credit card offers, but have you thought about what else might be in your home that an identity thief could find useful? Things like credit card bills, your Call Federal statements, canceled checks, receipts, credit reports, insurance policies, utility bills, credit and identification cards or badges, pay stubs…the list could go on. Anything that has your name or other personally identifying information could be used by would-be thieves and fraudsters.

Just like junk mail and credit card offers, household paperwork should be considered for shredding. As a general rule, anything that expires should be immediately shredded. For everything else, don’t shred the bill until your payment clears your account or until your receipt matches your bill.

Of course, not everything personal should be shredded. Keep anything with long-term implications, such as paperwork that is related to taxes, home improvements, business expenses, marriage licenses, birth certificates or receipts for large purchases.

One recommendation is to keep bills for at least a year and then annually determine what to shred and what to keep.

Here is a handy chart you can use to help decide what to shred, and when:

How long to keep
Monthly utility bills Until they’re paid, unless you are deducting part of your home off your state and federal business taxes.
ATM receipts Until you have balanced your checkbook.
Medical bills Until they’re paid, unless you deduct medical expenses from your taxes.
Canceled checks If you still get these, you can shred immediately unless you need to keep for tax purposes.
Credit union statements Until your checkbook has been balanced, unless you need them for tax purposes.
Pay stubs Until you have balanced your W2 at the end of the year. If you’re considering a loan for a major purchase, like a house, keep until the loan is closed.
Monthly/quarterly account statements Until the annual statement arrives.
Credit card statements One year, unless needed for tax purposes.
Credit card receipts One year, unless needed for tax purposes.
Expired credit cards Destroy immediately.
Tax returns and supporting documents Seven years. You can be audited for no reason up to three years after you file a return. If you omit 25 percent of your gross income, that period extends to six years.
Records of selling a house Seven years (Documentation for Capital Gains Tax).
Records of buying a house Until you have sold the home. Any documents related to taxes should be held for seven years.
Records of home improvements Seven years after filing the tax return that includes the income or loss on the home when it’s sold.
Product warranties Until you no longer own or use the product, or until the warranty expires, whichever comes first.
Retirement plan statements Keep the annual statements as long as you have assets in the plan.
Year-end account statements Until you no longer own the investment.
Loan paperwork Until the loan is paid. If you receive a payoff statement once the loan is paid, keep that indefinitely.
Insurance policies As long as you own the policy.
Marriage license Never destroy.
Birth certificate Never destroy.
Wills Never destroy.
Adoption papers Never destroy.
Death certificates Never destroy.
Records of paid mortgages Never destroy.


Here at Call Federal, we believe so strongly in the importance of shredding documents as a way to help prevent identity theft that we enlist a local document shredding company to help us host shredding events at each of our branch locations twice a year (typically March & September). Check out our Events page to see when and where our next shred event will take place.

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