It may be surprising to hear, but as many as half of all unauthorized data-disclosure incidents may involve the theft of paper records, according to a study of data breaches in the healthcare industry. What does this mean? It means that, as we dutifully change and guard our passwords, lock our laptops and iPhones, and delete suspicious emails, identity thieves are digging in our garbage cans and stealing files from our doctors’ offices. Yes, paper records are still a thing, and they are still a source of valuable information for identity thieves.
Paper Statements Are Not Safer
You may have become so paranoid about data breaches and hackers that you’ve avoided going “paperless” with your financial institutions or utility providers. Or maybe you have an older parent who simply can’t handle the move to digital records and payments. Either way, if you are still receiving paper statements, writing paper checks, or paying bills by mail, you have to be just as protective of your privacy as you are online. Here are some steps you should take if you’re still relying on paper documents:
- Shred old bank statements, utility bills, tax records, credit card statements, pay stubs, and other sensitive documents.
- Store paper records in a locked filing cabinet and weed them out frequently. Most bills only need to be kept until you get the next month’s bill, while bank statements and paystubs may be kept for a year.
- Be careful when ordering checks. If you don’t receive your checks in the time promised, contact your bank right away.
- Shred pre-approved credit card offers you receive in the mail. These can be stolen and submitted by a thief with an address change.
Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to protect your personnel file at work or your medical file at your doctor’s office, but if you are notified that these files have been stolen, understand that the thief has access to very sensitive information.
If a Thief Racks Up Debt in Your Name, Be Vigilant
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how a thief gets your information. If you are being contacted by a debt collector for debt that is not yours or are trying to get information caused by identity theft off your credit report, you may need my help to force these agencies to obey federal law and respond to your requests. Contact me online or call me directly at 855.982.2400 and tell me what’s going on. If I can help, I will—and at no cost to you!