Protect Your Information With These Types of Paper Shredders

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2011-03-1622

Apparently, there’s treasure in my trash.

No, it’s not what you think, though I wish this were a true story of how I stumbled upon a hidden valuable painting in the deep recesses of my attic. Instead, it’s about how my trash was suddenly considered monetarily attractive and became the target of interest for other reasons. Apparently, that was what some dark souls thought some years ago when they took off with our garbage one night. The creepy incident changed some of our recycling habits.

It was one early morning when we heard strange sounds outside our house in the direction of our storage units. We thought they were just some of the usual wildlife — mainly raccoons — that were rummaging through our bins, but instead, a flashlight, a voice, a hooded figure and a running truck conspired together to run off with the trash. Doubt very much pick-ups occurred at 2 AM.

Later, we found our abandoned empty cans by our vacationing neighbors’ driveway with some litter strewn on the streets. Too bad it wasn’t recycling week though. I’m sure they would’ve loved to trade the dirty diapers they got in return for some gold in them junk mail.


identity thiefSo someone out there figured our personal data and information was worth stealing. What else, but a case of attempted identity theft. Of course, you could guess what followed: we went into immediate lock down and turned ourselves into the paper patrol. We revisited our security policies at home, determined what we he had was just not up to par and since we actually already had a paper shredder around, we immediately had it upgraded to ensure that any form of our identity was obliterated from any material leaving our house (ok, I went overboard on purpose!).

Maybe you’re thinking it’ll never happen to you, but that’s what we thought as well, until all this happened. So I’m no longer taking any chances. You may be interested in some research I dug up while addressing the first line of defense in handling sensitive documents such as account information, bank statements, credit card statements and applications and such, so here it is…

Important Paper Shredder Features

  1. paper shredder speed or how fast does it go?
  2. the size of the shred
  3. the size of the paper shredder’s opening
  4. the type of documents or the kind of material the shredder can destroy
  5. the paper sheet capacity of each pass (or just how many paper sheets you can jam into the shredder in one pass or swoop)

Protect Your Information With These Paper Shredder Types

We actually went for what was in the middle and selected a cross cut shredder. We figured it was neither too industrial nor too basic for our needs, but just right.

strip cut shredderStrip Cut Shredder
This type was what we had initially, so it now wasn’t good enough for us given that after running paper through it, there was still some semblance of the document in the vertical strips that were generated. This basic shredder generates thin strips that are as long as the paper that you feed it, and is the easiest type to maintain. It’s the cheapest available shredder resulting in paper that is cut into strips that are between 1/64 to 3/4 inches wide and is typically a shredder that one person or family would use.

cross cut shredderCross Cut Shredder
This shredder cuts paper in two directions. It’s a bit fancier, so may cost a bit more as well. It may work more slowly but does a better job with chopping up documents. A cross cut or particle cut shredder is said to produce 80% more paper in shredded form than the basic strip cut kind. Cross cut shredders yield a systematic shred cut in various sizes while particle cut shredders have a nonsystematic cut. The nonsystematic cut will make it hard if not downright impossible for anyone to reassemble a shredded document.

micro cut shredderMicro Cut Shredder
The micro cut shredder is a variation of the cross cut shredder, the difference being that the shred size is much smaller such that it literally turns paper into dust and offers the highest level of security. You can get a level of security which results in reducing an 8 ½ x 11 inch sheet of paper into 6,093 unrecognizable pieces. Some machines can even go beyond this to be able to destroy top secret government and military documents; turning a single sheet of paper into a minimum of 12,064.5 particles.

Today, any sensitive material from our household enters the confetti maker to help us recycle our paper into some gift box and shipment stuffing. How’s that for killing two birds with one stone? As for the trash thief (who unfortunately was never apprehended): hope you were happy with those diapers because that will be all you’ll ever get from us!

Copyright © 2011 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

ralph emerson February 22, 2007 at 1:52 am

I guess it’s time to buy a stronger one, after which junk mail will include metal shims for some barely justifiable reason. I want one of those NSA shredders that just coughs up dust when you drop a calculus textbook into it.

cross cut shredder April 11, 2008 at 2:00 pm

This really breaks down the difference in the shredders. I was familiar with cross cut but micro cut is something new, that’s really taking it to the next level!

Tiffany September 5, 2008 at 2:30 pm

Leaving your important documents in the trash without them being properly shred is a bad idea. They are just waiting to be picked up by an identity thief.

Dumpster NJ August 31, 2009 at 12:36 pm

I was aware of cross-cutters but micro-shredders is new to me. It’s hugely important to properly dispose of sensitive information, especially with how rampant identity theft has become.

kaz June 30, 2010 at 11:26 pm

Believe it or not, I never used to shred my important docs until I got compromised about a year ago. I bought a Fellowes PowerShred and it works great. The cross-cut technology is incredible. But just to make sure, I also soak all my shredded docs in water before I put them in the trash. A little over board I know, but I will never be compromised again.

Chris Avery November 25, 2010 at 2:44 am

Micro shredders (that they call crypto cut shredders) would only really be necessary for government and military installations. Anyone else got any opinions?

btman949 December 21, 2010 at 9:31 am

With identity theft becoming more common I think it is time to invest in a decent shredder. Better to be safe than sorry! Thanks for the information.

LB March 17, 2011 at 10:21 am

I didn’t know there were shredders out there that cut the paper so small or even turned it into dust. I like to mix my paper shreds with my cat litter to make sure it is wet, smelly and never to be touched again.

Silicon Valley Blogger March 17, 2011 at 10:27 am

Shredders can really assist with your recycling efforts. I have those as well as my trusty compost bin to allow me to do my share to help out the environment. Interesting that lots of people are still fairly lazy about doing away with their important documents! If you think about it, your trash is a goldmine for any kind of looter. Of course, not all dumpster divers are this sort, and in fact, some of them do this as a form of “extreme frugality”, but what I’m referring to here are those people who have criminal intentions who are out to commit fraud by using your identity.

I’m already paranoid when my mail carrier reroutes my mail to a neighbor’s home (which happens quite often and the opposite also happens). So another idea to protect yourself is by opting for email delivery of your important info.

Jason March 17, 2011 at 10:53 am

Just burn all important documents lol jk.

Silicon Valley Blogger March 17, 2011 at 11:03 am

@Jason,
Burning wouldn’t be so bad as a way to get rid of stuff except you’d clog up the atmosphere with pollutants. ;) You want to recycle the right way anyway right?

Marisel March 17, 2011 at 4:12 pm

I guess one doesn’t really think about this sort of stuff until it happens to you. I am super guilty as just about all of my recycled paper is barely torn in half. And I leave shipping labels on boxes to recycle and throw out catalogs with my name still on them. It probably is wise to change before getting in a situation like yours.

Funny about Money March 19, 2011 at 8:08 am

Yeah, I need to get a new shredder, too…mine is wearing out. Thanks for this good review of the possibilities.

A year or two ago my neighbor walked out into the alley to dump her trash and found some guy sitting on the ground next to the dumpster riffling through a big wad of paper he’d pulled out. After that, we both got into the habit of shredding almost everything that has our names on it.

BTW, if you have a garden, the shredded paper can go into the compost bin.

Silicon Valley Blogger March 22, 2011 at 5:45 pm

@Marisel, the extra step we take to protect our identity is worth the peace of mind, IMO. It only takes an ounce of prevention….

@FAM, yep, it only takes one scary moment or bad experience. Unfortunately for us, the big risk is with establishments that handle our sensitive information. I heard about how some government agencies (such as those handling immigration papers) have been found to dump paperwork in the trash without any thought to security matters. Security breaches are ongoing elsewhere, even as we do our best to protect our homes and personal files from this sort of thing.

Cory March 23, 2011 at 9:35 pm

Can’t say enough about the shredder with all these identity thieves. I rigged up my cross-cut over the lip of my recycle bin…saves always having to empty those often too small shredder bins. Has anyone heard of the computer desktop shredders that don’t leave residual identifying information?

Silicon Valley Blogger March 24, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Has anyone heard of the computer desktop shredders that don’t leave residual identifying information?

Not really. What are these? Care to elaborate?

Jono September 5, 2011 at 2:23 pm

People really don’t realize the dangers of simply dumping their private stuff like bank statements, account notices etc. Identity fraud is unfortunately on the increase and we all should take precautions to ensure that the opportunities for such nasty people are minimized. Paper shredding is not new but with the increase in its popularity, especially cross-cut shredding, shredding machines for home use are available at very reasonable prices.

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