Business

How to clean up your documents while protecting your ID

  - Leader file image
— image credit: Leader file image

Spring has arrived and what better time to rid your home of the piles of paperwork you have accumulated over the past year. When it comes to storing and disposing of your personal records, the Better Business Bureau urges consumers to handle their information with care to avoid falling victim to fraud.

Danielle Primrose, president and CEO of BBB Serving Mainland BC, says safeguarding your information is key when it comes to fraud prevention.

"Some consumers have an 'out of sight, out of mind' mentality when it comes to disposing of unwanted material," she says. "But when it does come time to discard personal documents, it is crucial to do so properly so your information doesn't fall into the wrong hands. People don't always know where their waste material ends up, which leaves the window of opportunity for identity theft wide open."

So how long do you need to keep that ATM receipt cluttering up your wallet? BBB recommends the following timelines for discarding your documents:

Cancelled cheques - seven years: Cancelled cheques that support your tax returns, such as charitable contributions or tax payments, probably should be held for at least seven years – long enough to cover the six-year tax assessment period that starts when you file your tax return for the year the cheque was written. Cancelled cheques and related receipts or documents for a home purchase or sale, renovations or other improvements to a property you own should be kept indefinitely.

Receipts - Until verified on bank statement: Save deposit, ATM, credit card and debit card receipts until the transaction appears on your statement and you have verified that the information is accurate.

Credit card and bank account statements - One-seven years: Save those with no tax or other long-term significance for about a year, but save the rest for up to seven years. If you get a detailed annual statement, keep that and discard the corresponding monthly statements.

Credit card contracts and other loan agreements - As long as active: Keep for as long as the account is active, in case you have a dispute with your lender over the terms of your contract.

Documentation of investments - As long as you own them plus seven years: Retain your purchase or sale of stocks, bonds and other investments while you own the investment and then seven years after that.

Shred personal documents: If you are no longer required to keep personal documents, make sure to dispose of them properly. Any document that contains a Social Insurance Number, bank account or credit card number, your date of birth, or other personal information should be shredded instead of tossed in the garbage. Shredding prevents your personal information from being used by scammers for identity theft and other fraudulent activity.

For more information and other consumer tips, visit bbb.org

 

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