Do you have boxes of old documents piled up and taking a lot of space in your basement?
The best way to avoid identity theft is by shredding those documents that make it possible, says Doug Martin, Virgil branch manager of the Meridian Credit Union.
“Shredding documents is extremely important. Every bit of information out there on a piece of paper can help a fraudster forge your ID.”
The fundraising Shred-it event in the Meridian Credit Union parking lot has become an annual tradition, and a reminder for locals to go through their documents and dispose of them securely.
Martin and the credit union have supported the event every year since it began. It originated as a fundraiser for the Niagara-on-the-Lake Hospital Auxiliary, and once the hospital closed, was taken over by members of the NOTL Community Palliative Care Service.
Identity theft doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it can be devastating, says Martin. “I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.”
It can take a lot of time and effort to clear it up, and it’s stressful while you’re going through it.
“Identity theft is big business. We’re fortunate we don’t see a lot of it here. It means people are doing the right thing in disposing of their documents.”
A social insurance number is key, and that is on many pieces of tax-related mail. Once that information falls into the wrong hands, forging an identity becomes relatively easy.
“It’s the most important piece of information to protect,” says Martin. “It’s not on a lot of documents, but most tax documents will include it. They are important to shred.”
He is always on hand for the event, and says there are still a lot of people bringing in many old boxes of stored documents. “They use this event to clear out sensitive information they don’t need to hang on to. It’s great to see people are still making use of this service. Every year we fill two trucks. More and more people are hearing the message.”
Even as we transition to electronic documents, Martin says, there is still lots of paper out there that needs to be safely shredded.
There are businesses that offer to do that for you, he adds, but he suggests it’s important to investigate to ensure documents are being handled securely.
And it’s not only paper — old debit and credit cards can go through a shredder. “It’s not enough to just cut them in half and put them in the garbage,” says Martin. “They should also be shredded securely.”
Volunteer Margret Walker, involved in organizing the event, says it’s a major fundraiser for the palliative care service. “All the money stays right here in town, supporting this organization that helps locals.”
Some of the former hospital auxiliary members still help on the day of the event — it requires about 30 volunteers, including husbands to help lift the heavy boxes from cars to the Shred-it trucks, Walker says. They also have students from Vineridge Academy come out to assist with the lifting.
“They’re a big help. It’s very nice to have the strong, willing and able young people on hand.”
There are also Meridian Credit Union staff members who come out to help. “It’s a great partnership,” says Walker.
She encourages people to have a look through their boxes before dropping them off.
“You don’t have to worry about taking out paper clips or staples, but we do have to remove big clips and binders with steel spines,” she says.
“Some of these boxes have been in basements for 50 years or more, and there can be more than paper in them. Two years ago we had a box of cartridges, new ones. They looked like they were from the ’30s or ’40s. We called the police to dispose of them — we didn’t know what else to do. There could have been fireworks in Virgil that day had we not looked through the boxes,” she jokes.
A banker’s box of paper can be shredded for $8, says Walker, or three boxes for $20.
The Shred-it event is Saturday, Aug. 17 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The NOTL Community Palliative Care Service has been providing caring support and quality of life for seriously ill residents of NOTL, their families and caregivers, since 1986. It offers services at home, and at the three long-term care facilities in town, with trained visiting volunteers who provide compassionate, emotional support, and relief for caregivers.
It also has a variety of equipment to lend, including wheelchairs, recliner lift chairs and walkers, and has an extensive lending library of books, CDs and DVDs.
For more information about palliative care call 905-468- 4433 or visit notlpc.com.