It’s Time For the Year End Document Purge
The end of the year is coming up and for many people that means a purge of documents that aren’t necessary to keep anymore.
Before you start getting rid of your documents you should understand what you are looking at. Decide what to keep and what to get rid of as well as choose the best ways to destroy any sensitive information.
What should you shred?
Things that are obvious are any pieces of mail for offers such as pre-approved credit offers and loans that you have absolutely no intention of taking advantage of.
Review yearly receipts and statements such as pay stubs and ATM receipts. If there’s no use for them anymore, shred them.
This annual purge is to help get rid of the clutter accumulated during the year. If something seems important, do some extra research online. Don’t just throw things out to make room, understand why you’re throwing them out.
What should you keep?
The IRS recommends keeping records from anywhere between 3 and 7 years depending on the circumstances surrounding them. A typical return with no problems and money owed or returned can be destroyed after 3, a return that features a claim for loss or bad debt, hold on to for 7.
In the State of Wisconsin medical records must be kept or maintained by providers for at least 5 years. Depending on the relationship with the patient, you can then choose what to keep and what to securely destroy in accordance with HIPAA laws.
For Wisconsin law firms there is a bit of a grey area to keeping records. Thomas Watson of the State Bar of Wisconsin website recommends creating a file-retention policy for your office and also figuring out which records you may want to hold on to indefinitely.
There are other things such as wedding certificates, pension plan documents, vehicle loans and title deeds that you should always keep and store in a safe place.
What does your credit look like?
In a perfect world most people would monitor their credit regularly as a priority. Obviously this isn’t always the case, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check it at all. Since you’re working at cleaning up your documents this is also a perfect opportunity to take a look at your credit score and monitor your lines of credit.
A great free site to review your credit is www.freecreditscore.com.
It is also a great time to refamiliarize yourself with the terms of your accounts, as well as your interest rates. Make sure they haven’t changed without any previous notice.
Is this the year you’re going to go paper free?
Many credit card companies, banks and even accounts and tax programs allow you access to digital copies of your statements and information. Tax returns are now regularly uploaded digitally to secure servers with your information available to you on your own computer. Any payments can be made directly from your bank account and returns put into your account the same way.
Public utilities such as WE Energies have also gone to fully paperless billing as an option. Again, secure payments are an advantage as well as getting rid of one more piece of valuable information that comes unsecured through the mail.
If you choose to go this route make sure you’ve taken other precautions with how you store your information. It does make holding on to data in an organized fashion a lot easier, but being careless can leave you exposed to possible threats to having your information compromised or stolen.
Choose passwords to your accounts that are not easy to guess and include a mix of letters, numbers and symbols. Also, change them up every couple of months and never give them out to anyone.
We provide shredding services to southeast Wisconsin residents in Kenosha, Racine, Walworth and the southern half of Milwaukee County. We will come directly to you to destroy your sensitive documents and even provide you with a “Certificate of Destruction” to guarantee that the work was done right and safely the first time.
Contact us for all of your sensitive paper shredding needs.