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Choose Your Shredder Carefully

Protecting your personal information from identity thieves is a multi-step process; however, the biggest step you can take at home is to shred anything with personal information on it.

“All a true identity thief needs to become you is your name and ZIP code,” said Frank Abagnale, an American security consultant, at a reception in November. “What you may think is worthless, is of value to an identity thief.”

But you don’t want to use just any shredder. Some shredders only cut up paper enough so that it’s left in strips or cross sections. These papers can still be put back together by someone with enough time.

How do you know which is the most secure? Go to an office supply store and you’re likely to see a wall full of shredders for sale. There are three basic types, but only one is worth buying if you really want to protect your shredded documents, papers and other personal information from being put back together.

Strip-cut shredders cut paper into long strips that are a quarter-inch wide. They’re good for basic shredding and light use.

Cross-cut shredders do what the name implies—shred paper into cross sections. The machines are fast and cut to a size that is more secure than strip-cut shredders.

For the most protection, Abagnale recommends using a micro-cut shredder, which turns paper into pieces the size of rice and can’t be put back together. Micro-cut shredders offer the highest level of security by shredding paper into confetti-like pieces.

While micro-cut shredders are slower than cross-cut shredders, they shred six times smaller than standard cross-cut shredders: 2,235 pieces instead of 360 pieces.