The Better Business Bureau marked National Financial Literacy Month by announcing "Secure Your ID Day." The April 17 event featured free document shredding services and attracted more than 25,000 consumers and businesses at 50 locations throughout North America, according to a recent release from the BBB. In addition to paper shredders, financial advisers were on hand to help consumers sort out their money management issues.
"BBB is here for consumers not only when they need help finding a trustworthy business or when they have a grievance with a company, but also to help them guard their finances and protect their families in small ways, every day," Stephen Cox, president and CEO of the council of the BBB, said.
The 480 tons of sensitive documents shredded this April set a record for BBB's annual event, according to the report, and was 30 percent higher than the amount shredded last spring. Consumers and businesses were urged to bring three boxes of such paperwork. Some locations offered visitors door prizes or other incentives in return for participation.
Improperly discarding documents can cause personal information to land in the wrong hands when identity thieves dumpster dive or sift through their victims' trash. This personal paperwork can include credit card receipts, bank statements and voided checks. Consumers should also be cautious when throwing out electronic data-storing devices, like a hard drive, USB flash drive or CD.
The BBB offered advice that individuals may follow daily in order to minimize their risk of being victimized by identity theft. This includes cutting expired debit and credit cards through the numbers, checking a credit report at least once a year and paying attention to when monthly statements arrive in the mail. A missing statement could indicate identity theft. It is also important to use care online.
"Never respond to emails requesting to 'verify' your personal information and identifiers," the BBB said. "Your bank, credit card company, online payment system, the IRS - none of these types of organizations will call or e-mail asking for your confidential information."
Consumers who think their information has been compromised should contact their bank to stop fraudulent charges. Filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission may help law enforcement officials take action against fraudsters.