How can I safely dispose of important personal documents and computer data?

By Andrew Stucken, Wednesday 3 July 2013

Most of us know about the dangers of throwing away sensitive documents with the rest of the rubbish. The idea of criminals rummaging through your dustbin or scavenging on landfill for your personal data may seem far-fetched, but identity theft and crime involving stolen bank and credit card data are big business. Fortunately, you can greatly reduce your risk of falling victim.
A decent shredder is just one of several options for keeping your crucial paperwork away from prying eyesA decent shredder is just one of several options for keeping your crucial paperwork away from prying eyes

Documents you should destroy before discarding include those with bank and credit card numbers, legal and medical information, and passwords or your signature.

The simplest method is to buy a shredder – but if the idea of using these paper-chewing machines does not appeal, there are alternatives.



A basic shredder costs as little as £10, and more sophisticated machines upwards of £50. A shredder essentially consists of the shredding unit – slots for feeding documents into rows of metallic teeth – and a bin to collect the waste.

Cross-cut shredders are more expensive, but as criminals have been known to piece back together documents shredded into the conventional thin strips, cross-cut lends added security.

All shredders should be designed to conform to safety standards, but a little care when feeding in documents is advisable.


Shredding services

Local councils do, of course, offer waste disposal and recycling facilities, but would probably advise you to use a commercial service for shredding.

If the volume of documents warrants it, and depending on where you live, you could have a large quantity of documents shredded for a minimum charge of around £80.

Burning documents is a simpler solution, but do exercise caution. Select a safe place to incinerate them and consider any local fire restrictions.

Soaking will cause papers to dissolve into a soggy mess and render them easy to tear apart. The sodden documents will readily stick together and should thus - even when dry - be illegible. 


Did you know that simply deleting data from your computer is not enough? Read on...

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.


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  • Kathy Campbell

    Posted: Friday 13 December 2013

    To save time and power when shredding, just tear out the private details from documents and bills.

  • Vicki Lazar

    Posted: Friday 13 December 2013

    When I wish to dispose of a large collection of printed banks statements, I take them to my bank. Certainly is secure & saves using my small shredder.


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