Let go of past to protect future

By Nancy Black

The woosh of energy swirled through my house. Adrenaline was pumping through my veins. And the sky erupted with thunderous booming and pouring rain. All this happened after the document shredding company pulled away from my house on Tuesday.

Years and years of bills, banking and medical records had just been ripped to shreds before my very eyes. The vehicle, a little bit larger than a garbage truck, had a fancy panel of buttons on the side. Above the buttons, there was a video screen showing the inside of the shredding device so you can watch the process.

It took longer than I thought it would. I watched the huge files filled with paperwork from a car I haven’t owned in 20 years slowly get chewed up by the sharp blades of the grinder. Old checks from my bank account when I lived in California soon followed. I recognized the color of the checkbook cover. It was green, because I was going to make lots of money in Hollywood. 

Medical bills and tax returns filled the rest of the shredding barrel the company used.

When the shred men were finally done, I realized the entire transaction had only taken about 10 minutes. It was a lifetime for me.

Looking back into my garage left me stunned. I had become so accustomed to seeing that huge pile of boxes marked “shred” piled in the corner, that the sight — or lack of sight — of anything there was jarring. It’s weird to let go of important documents. I’m afraid I’ll throw away something I may need one day. Hence the nervous energy surrounding me and my now cleaned out garage.  

But I can ease my mind, and my nerves, knowing that I took the proper precautions against identity theft. 

Identity theft cost Americans more than $16.9 billion in 2019. And it was even worse this past year during the pandemic, according to a study sponsored by AARP. “Identity thieves swarm the Internet and often target older Americans, who tend to be slow to adopt new fraud-prevention technologies.” 

Fraud-prevention. That’s what I did by shredding my important documents. I may be old but I’m not dumb. I know thieves have no problem digging through disgusting trash heaps to find personal information. Then they open bank accounts and apply for loans using that information to destroy the credit and lives of their victims. According to a report from the SANS Institute, it takes an average of six months and roughly 200 hours of work to recover your identity after it’s been compromised. Now that, I am too old for. The last thing I want to do is spend months and months trying to straighten out the financial destruction identity theft causes. I will do everything in my power to reduce that possible stress. I just didn’t expect the sudden rush of emotions to be so powerful while seeing all my shredding drive away. It was definitely a cleansing experience, but now I feel like I need a hot bath. I think I’ll burn some sage, too, while I’m at it. 

If you would like to purge your piles of old papers and avoid identity theft, you can do what I did and call a mobile service, which came to my home. Or you can attend a community shredding event on May 22. Lake Highlands Presbyterian Church is hosting a free recycling day. Rid your home of unwanted electronics, sporting goods, toys, books, clothing and more. They are even offering paper and hard drive shredding for a small fee per box. 

Visit lhpres.org/green-team for more information.

Unfortunately, thieves have other ways of stealing your identity beyond your old documents. For general information on preventing identity theft, visit usa.gov/identity-theft.