We all have received in our snail mail pre-screened offers for credit cards, loans, and insurance. The offer typically says, "You have been pre-approved for..." What do you do with yours? Most people throw them in the trash. Some tear them up by hand into little pieces. That's safe, right?
Pre-screened offers are gold for "dumpster diving" identity thieves. All a thief has to do is search through your paper trash (easier if you sorted it in a recycle bin), complete the pre-screened form with your name on it, change the address, mail it in, and they are happily on their way to wrecking your credit and your finances. But don't take my word for it. Read the Torn Up Credit Card Application web site.
A consumer, Rob Cockerham, did just that. He tore up a credit card application by hand, taped it back together, completed the application with a different street address, and mailed it in the bank's prepaid envelope... just like an identity thief would. Most people think that the bank would have rejected the scotch-tape-reassembled credit card application, right?
Wrong. Credit card application accepted.
MSNBC's Red Tape Chronicles blog also reported on Cockerham's site and documented the bank's flimsy excuses about why they accepted the obviously suspect credit card application. More importantly, the Red Tape Chronicle stated:
"So each of those 5 billion pre-approved applications that carpet bomb American consumers every year is an identity theft ticking time bomb. Cockerham drives this point home with a sledgehammer. An application stitched together with Scotch tape?"
Me? I shred everything and have done so for many years; especially all pre-screened offers. I don't trust the credit card companies and banks to adequately screen applications for fraud. I use a Fellowes PS80C-2 shredder. It's a cross-cut shredder and shreds up to 5 sheets at a time, plus expired credit cards, medical cards, loyalty-program cards, and drivers licenses.
If you are unsure what to do to minimize your risk of identity theft, read a prior blog entry about ways to protect yourself. The July 1, 2007 issue of the Wall Street Journal has an excellent article about how experts protect themselves from identity theft. We consumers can use the same prevention tips that the experts use.
Next entry: Identity theft legislation in Massachusetts