How hoarding documents puts you at risk for identity theft

Apr 17, 2024, 10:55 PM | Updated: 11:13 pm

SALT LAKE CITY Every day, sophisticated crooks use sophisticated technology to pull off sophisticated schemes to rip us off. While it’s certainly wise to be on your guard against such modern sophistication you must not overlook the decidedly less sophisticated methods of identity theft.

Someone who knows what they’re doing can do a whole lot of damage with the scraps of paper you’ve stashed in filing cabinets, drawers and other various hiding places around your house.

Utah’s Consumer Protection Division director Katie Hass pointed out that to me as we rifled through my own clutter of documents.

“Your name, your address, your date of birth, your Social Security number,” Hass said as she listed information found in my papers. “Info about your children, family members, et cetera.”

I brought Haas my family’s 2016 “keepers-folder.” Now more than seven years old, it’s ready to be tossed into the recycle bin.

“Uh, no!” she warned. “Don’t just throw them in the recycle bin – bad idea.”

The folder is full of paid invoices and other receipts. A utility bill or two. A contract for a home alarm system and that kind of miscellaneous stuff. In it, we found nothing like a tax return or any such document that a bad guy could need to steal my identity.

Well, actually that’s not true.

“They have your address,” Hass pointed out. “They know where you work.”

Yeah, the information in the folder as miscellaneous as it is can still be more than enough for a thief to use to bypass security controls.

“It’s not that one document is going to have everything about you,” Hass explained. “It’s about them building a case that they are you.”

The con can also work in the reverse direction. Using the information I’ve kept in this folder, someone could call me up and perhaps successfully persuade me that they are a legitimate representative from my bank, my mortgage lender or with the city. Once they do that, they’ll put the squeeze on me as they try to get me to divulge personal information. They might claim I’ve missed a payment or there’s a problem they’ll help me fix something like that. It’s a successful strategy that scammers use all the time.

“Well guess what? If they have a bill form your mortgage company, they can impersonate your mortgage company much better,” said Hass.

The solution? Firing up the shredder to dispose of the paperwork you’re needlessly hoarding.

That can be a long, arduous task shredding papers one-by-one. So, the Consumer Protection Division and the University of Utah’s Sustainability Office have teamed up to host Declutter Day this Friday. This is your opportunity to bring in documents that have piled up in your home. They’re also helping Utahns destroy old hard drives filled with personal information. And bonus, they’re offering safe disposal for expired medications and old electronics.

Declutter Day is Friday, April 19 from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Guardsman Way parking lot on the University of Utah campus. You’ll find more details about what will be accepted and what won’t on the Consumer Protection division’s website.

Get Gephardt

FILE - This combination of 2017-2022 photos shows the logos of Facebook, YouTube, TikTok and Snapch...

Matt Gephardt and Sloan Schrage

Scammers offer to help regain control of hacked social media accounts for a fee

People are advertising they can help you get back into your hacked social media accounts. It is a lie.

5 days ago

A Utah man purchased Aerosmith tickets back when the show was scheduled in 2023, but the show got p...

Matt Gephardt

Utahns fighting for refunds on postponed Aerosmith concert

A Utah man purchased Aerosmith tickets back when the show was scheduled in 2023, but the show got pushed to a day that no longer works for him. He decided to Get Gephardt when his quest for a refund hit a dead end.

7 days ago

The USDA estimates we toss out 30-40% of our food purchases, even though much of it is perfectly sa...

Matt Gephardt and Sloan Schrage, KSL TV

Food for thought: How understanding date labels can prevent food waste

The USDA estimates we toss out 30-40% of our food purchases, even though much of it is perfectly safe to eat. Decoding date labels could help you bust inflation.

12 days ago

KSL’s Matt Gephardt price shopped several items at traditional grocery stores and specialty food ...

Matt Gephardt

Gephardt Busts Inflation: Will shopping specialty food markets save you money?

To save money on your groceries, a specialty food market might not come to mind. But KSL Consumer Investigator Matt Gephardt found branching out to specialty food markets might help you bust some grocery inflation.

13 days ago

Gal Gadot, Chris Stapleton, Taylor Swift, Keanu Reeves among many other celebrities have had their ...

Matt Gephardt

Utahns are losing money and their personal info to celebrity imposter scams

A Utah man contacted the KSL Investigators to ask us to verify if he was messaging the real Gal Gadot of “Wonder Woman” fame through social media.

19 days ago

Cris Meyers showing Matt Gephardt the arrest warrant he was sent by the fake cop....

Matt Gephardt

Law enforcement scams threatening jailtime if you don’t pay on the rise in Utah

Law enforcement scams, that threaten jail for citizens if they don’t pay immediately are on the rise in Utah

20 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 Internet Safety Tips for Kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why Printer Security Should Be Top of Mind for Your Business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

How hoarding documents puts you at risk for identity theft