Protect yourself against identity theft

Want to safely dispose of your sensitive documents? The Better Business Bureau's Secure Your ID Day provides the hardware -- just bring your own paperwork

The FTC estimates that nearly 10 million people have their identities stolen every year, and the problem is growing, with estimates for 2009 topping out at 11.1 million. This is a crime that costs U.S. businesses $50 billion a year. Victims have spent $5 billion trying to recover from identity theft.

I know Gripe Line readers are savvy when it comes to protecting personal data online and disposing of computers and hard drives, but paper remains one of more easily targeted sources for exploitation when it comes to identity theft. The most bulletproof online password system in the world will not protect your identity if you toss away an old file folder that contains a tasty tidbit of personal information -- a bank account number, a Social Security numbers, or a credit card number -- thieves are looking for.

[ Also on InfoWorld: Roger Grimes offers tips for protecting your identity online: Don't trust public PCs and always require a signature | Frustrated by tech support? Get answers in InfoWorld's Gripe Line newsletter. ]

Of course, we all know to shred that stuff, but desktop shredders are notoriously fussy pieces of equipment, and no one wants to spend an afternoon cleaning and repairing one. If you work in a small office, obtaining an industrial shredder may not be feasible. Too often it is tempting to toss everything into the trash and hope for the best.

The following video helped remind me why I take the time to shred documents. None of the information in the video is a revelation, but it provides a complete rundown of the ways you can prevent and respond to identity theft, and it's a great way to convince someone in your life to clean up their act.

I chose to raise this rather perennial topic today not simply because tax day is around the corner and I always use that deadline to clean out files but also because the Better Business Bureau is holding its Secure Your ID Day this coming Saturday, April 17. Taking place in 55 locations around the country, the event lets shred your files (paper or floppy disk) for free. Last year, this event helped people shred 1.3 million pounds of sensitive documents.

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This story, "Protect yourself against identity theft," was originally published at Read more of Christina Tynan-Wood's Gripe Line blog at