Shred, White & Blue: Is There Really Freedom From Identity Theft?

PHOTO: Shredding documents may not be a fool-proof way to protect against identity theft.

It’s finally here. You’ve been saving up for months. This is your day. You are the Master of the Data Security Universe, Ms. Never-Gonna-Happen-To-Me, Captain Try-Personally-Identifying-This. And you’re going to… a Shred-a-Thon!

Yes, it’s that time of the year when friends and neighbors gather in the haze of grilling hot dogs and burgers as they feed their old papers to a municipality-owned, or financial institutionally-leased shred-mobile, while talking about data security and sharing a horror story or two about identity theft.

While the goal of a shred-a-thon is laudable, and the action is certainly a concrete one, the gesture is more or less symbolic in terms of actually stopping identity theft. And as we ready ourselves to enjoy the colorful symbolism in the evening skies of Independence Day celebrations across the nation, it’s crucial that you not allow a little something like document shredding to stand between you and the truth.

The Privacy Rights Clearing House estimates that some 867,810,607 records with personally identifiable information (PII) have been exposed in data breaches since 2005. Others have reported numbers far in excess of 1 billion files. The sheer quantity of purloined, as well as willingly over-shared, information floating in the cyber-sphere has pushed us way beyond mere symbolic gestures. The chances that chunks of that information include pieces of your own identity puzzle are pretty close to a slam dunk.

So it’s time to trade that false sense of security pervading shred-a-thons for some real-world actions that can push off your inevitable day of reckoning and help keep you and your family as safe as possible. Because in this Everyone’s Exposed world where pieces of your PII can be had for pennies, it’s really just a matter of time before someone cobbles together enough of your data to cause you pain.

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