Insurance and Finance

To Shred or Not to Shred?

By James Mayfield 7.13.15

Each year, around 15 million U.S. residents have their identities stolen, resulting in financial losses totaling upwards of $50 billion.

Fortunately, you can protect your sensitive information from getting into the wrong hands. Shredding — not with a basic strip-cut shredder but a crosscut one for enhanced security — can be a good way to protect personal documents when you don’t need them anymore. But should all your paperwork be shredded? Here’s some guidance on what to shred and what to keep intact.


Your mailbox can hold pleasant surprises from a variety of colorful catalogs, cards, and gifts, but sensitive information gets dropped in there too. Bank statements, financial investments, bills, unwanted credit card solicitations, and anything with your social security number on it should all go in the shredder.

Tax Paperwork

In general, the IRS recommends keeping income tax return records dating back three years. That being said, the government agency can go back six years in an assessment if it discovers an underreporting of 25 percent or more gross income. And if you haven’t filed a return in any given year, you should keep your tax return records indefinitely.


Permanent records should never be shredded or discarded. These include birth and death certificates, trust documents, wills and estate-planning documents, military records, life insurance policies, powers of attorney, and marriage or divorce documents. Although a locked file cabinet is relatively secure, it isn’t indestructible. You can purchase a fireproof safe at a big-box retailer for keeping permanent records protected yet easily accessible.

Toss It

There’s usually no need to shred junk mail that is marked “Current Resident” or “Occupant.” An identity thief can’t do damage without more sensitive information. But know that bar codes printed on junk mail can sometimes contain personal information. If there are no bar codes, just recycle and move on to the next stack of papers.

Once you’ve sorted through all your important documents, make sure the rest of your belongings are in order, too. Make sure your all your insurance policies on file are up-to-date and provide full coverage, contact your Texas Farm Bureau Insurance agent for a 360 Review®.