Identity theft is a common offence and one that sends shivers down many people’s spines. Physical theft is bad enough in itself – returning home to find that you’ve been broken into and had personal items stolen, or leaving work and discovering your car is missing are truly terrible experiences. But the very idea of having your actual identity (the one thing that truly sets you aside as an individual) stolen and put to use by a complete stranger is enough to upset, scare and depress people to a significant extent.

The most terrifying part is how easy it is for a criminal to steal someone’s identity. It doesn’t require stealth, such as a burglar breaking into a home, and there’s no need for sleight of hand, like when a pickpocket deftly removes a wallet or mobile phone without you knowing. Instead, all the felon requires is a page or two of personal documentation. And it doesn’t even need to be a bank statement – a utility bill, council tax demand or even everyday correspondence could include information that you don’t want falling into the wrong hands. In fact, come to think of it, do you give blood? If you’ve made an appointment and received the usual form in the post but then rescheduled and thrown the form away, that one piece of paper includes your full name, address, phone number, date of birth, National Insurance number and even some medical history. The same goes for payslips: even if it’s a few years old and you’re having a clearout, that out of date receipt of payment could prove very useful to an identity thief.

But don’t worry, the solution is actually very simple and we’re sure you’ll know it already. Shredding documents and disposing of them safely in your recycling bin is the best way to keep all of your personal data… well… personal. However, some criminals really are quite dedicated to their career, so strip shredding may not be enough. Luckily there are efficient cross cut shredders available for less than £20 these days, some of which can also shred credit cards and CDs. If you do this, make sure not to mix paper and plastic, and don’t put paper shreds directly into the bin as a windy day could result in a messy neighbourhood.

Another tip is to separate shredded paper into mixed batches, so that even if a bin raider does dive into your recycling wheelie, they’ll get little more than a random selection of paper scraps. If possible, you can also make sure that your bins are inaccessible from the street or, at the very least, return them to their designated storage space immediately after emptying.

However, please note that some councils can’t take shredded paper due to the paper mills they use not accepting it. Check with your local council first, and if this is indeed the case you can either arrange for a professional shredding company to collect your documents (for a fee) or even just pop the shreds into your composting bin. And if you really want to take your documentation security to the next level, check out the Slim Jim Confidential Paper Bin. Admit it, the name alone makes you want to own one.

It’s actually very easy to prevent identity theft these days; all it takes is a little organisation. So please, do your bit to keep your personal details safe and give the wrongdoers a headache, all while helping the planet to stay green in the process.

Paper recycling that has been put through a shredder