Identity theft is one of the largest forms of consumer fraud. Keeping your sensitive documents and information secure is of the utmost importance.
But how do you know what to keep secure and how do you know how long to keep them or how to get rid of them properly?
It is easy to get confused when sorting through dusty file boxes or the piles of paper that easily build up over time.
Let me help you determine how long you should keep your documents and how to properly dispose of them when the time comes.
DOCUMENT RETENTION & DISPOSAL GUIDELINES:
The rule of thumb is seven years to be safe. The IRS has three years to audit your return if the agency suspects you made a mistake and up to six years if you likely underreported your gross income by 25 percent or more. If you failed to file a return for any year, keep records indefinitely.
One year. Match them up to your W2 form, then shred.
One year with the exception of statements related to your taxes, business expenses, home improvements, mortgage payments, and major purchases for as long as you need them. Many financial institutions now provide the option to receive your bank and credit card statements online instead of by mail.
Credit Card Statements:
Hold on to for at least 45 days. The rules here are similar to those for bank statements; hang on to those you may need for your taxes or as proof of purchase. Shred the rest after you have confirmed the payment.
Expect to keep medical records for a minimum of a year. Depending on the type of medical records it is likely you will need to keep for longer for example, while you would keep a medical bill for a year in case there was a dispute over a reimbursement, you might consider holding onto documents regarding treatment and symptoms at least until time has ended however many experts suggest keeping these documents in addition to other records for up to five years. You should also keep information about prescriptions, medical history, health insurance information, and contact information for your physician.
Keep policy information for the life of the policy plus an additional five years. Additional records such as statements, hospital bills, car repair bills, copies of prescriptions, ect. should be kept up to five years from the date the service was provided.
Utility and Phone Bills:
Shred them after you have paid them unless they contain tax-deductible expenses.
Until you withdraw the money. You can shred quarterly statements as soon as you match them with your yearly statement.
Until six years after you sell. Improvements you make and expenses such as your real estate agent’s commission are factored in when you sell your home,lowering your capital gain tax.
As long as they are current. Expired warranties can be recycled, unless they contain personal information.
ITEMS TO CONSIDER SHREDDING
You should consider shredding the following items for your safety & privacy
- Address labels from junk mail and magazines
- ATM receipts
- Bank statements
- Birth certificate copies
- Canceled and voided checks, credit, charge card bills, carbon copies, and receipts
- Credit reports and histories, employee pay stubs, and employment records
- Expired credit and idenitification cards identification cards ect. (If your shredder can nt handle plastic, cut the card with scissors before disposing.)
- Expiered passports and visas, legal documents, insurance cards/documents, investments, stock, and property transactions
- Luggage tags
- Medical and dental records, papers with Social Security numbers, Pre-approved credit card applications
- Receipts with checking account numbers
- Report cards
- Resumes or curriculum, vitae signitures (such as those found on leases, contracts, and letters)
- Tax forms
- Travel itineraries
- Used airline tickets
- Utilitiy bills (telephone, gas, electric, water, cable TV, internet)