These days, the majority of the information you get in the mail is also available online. So it’s easy to treat those paper versions like trash. Pay stubs? Recycle. Utility bills? Don’t need them. That booking confirmation for an upcoming concert? Trash it. But wait—not so fast! These “spam” letters contain more personal information than you might think, and simply tossing them could put you at risk of identity theft.
Since 16 million people were victims of identity theft in 2017, according to a report by Javelin Strategy & Research, you’ll want to treat your mail with some serious care. Herein, we’ve rounded up the “spam” letters you might not realize make you vulnerable to scammers. When it comes to these pieces of mail, it’s always best to shred instead.
Medical Records From Your Vet
What could a thief possibly gain from knowing that your dog got two shots last week? Turns out, it’s not your pet’s procedures that hackers care about—it’s their name. One 2013 survey commissioned by Google found that the most common passwords contain a pet’s name.
Pre-Authorized Credit Card Offers
Just because you’re not accepting a credit card offer doesn’t mean it’d be impossible for someone else to—and in your name, at that. While it’s unlikely a random scam artist would be able to grab one of these from your mailbox and apply for a credit card without any other information, anyone with access to your home likely has the ability to dig up your Social Security number and apply.
Mail From Your Child’s School
Your child’s school probably sends you a lot of mail. But just because you don’t need yet another reminder that your kid has a field trip coming up, that doesn’t mean the piece of paper can go straight into the recycling bin. Consider this: In 2017, more than one million children were victims of identity theft or fraud, according to the Javelin report.
Like all medical and health insurance records—including outdated insurance forms, prescription and physician statements, and the labels from prescription bottles—any paperwork you get in the mail from a medical agency should be shredded, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Pay Stubs From Your Employer
Even if you choose to get your pay stubs online, many companies will still send you hard copies in the mail. And while you might just let these envelopes pile up on the counter before tossing them after tax season, these stubs can sometimes be used to verify identity—or for someone else to prove that they’re you.
A peek at your utility bill can make it easier for thieves to open their own utility accounts in your name. “Very little information is needed to open a utility account,” Brett Montgomery, a fraud operations manager at IDentity Theft’s Resolution Center, told Credit.com. “A name, phone number, and service address are usually enough—and in any case, the service address belongs to the criminal.”