Properly destroying credit cards is not as simply as it might seem. Simply cutting up a credit card is just not enough. In order to protect your identity, you need to systematically destroy and dispose of your expired or closed credit cards in a way that ensures that there is no retrievable information that scammers can get their hands on.
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Magnet, scissors, a hammer, and several trash bags are the order of the day when properly destroying credit cards. Start by running the magnet over the magnetic strip on the reverse of the card to destroy any information held there. The hammer can be used to smash the chip in the card, as it must be intact in order to obtain information from it.
The scissors have the most important role in the proper destruction of a credit card. Start by cutting the magnetic strip diagonally three times to ensure destruction of data contained there. Continue to cut the card into numerous small pieces, ensuring that each set of four digits is broken apart, the signature on the back is unreadable, and the three-digit code on the back is destroyed. Once you have all the small pieces, distribute them in a variety of different trash bags so that someone looking for such information will be unable to piece it back together.
While some people advocate burning credit cards to destroy them unequivocally, it is not recommended because of the environmental impact of doing so. Burning such cards release harmful toxins into the air.
Dangers of a Credit Card that is Not Properly Destroyed
Unfortunately, because identity theft is so rampant these days, a credit card that is improperly destroyed holds a wealth of information that con artists would simply love to get their hands on. The data contained there, even on an expired card or closed account allows such individuals to open new accounts in your name and ruin your credit in the process. In fact, three different parts of the card contain valuable information:
- Your name and account number
- The electronic chip in the card
- The magnetic strip on the back
How You Can Monitor Your Identity
Monitoring your identity is incredibly important if you want to make sure that you are not the victim of identity theft. It is quite easy to keep an eye on your identity if you take advantage of the free yearly credit reports that you are entitled to from the major credit reporting bureaus. They are Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian.
By making sure that you check your credit at least yearly, you will be on top of your credit enough to be able to rectify any problems in a timely manner.
Order these reports when you are eligible for the free ones and check them carefully for errors and things you do not recognize. The hallmark of many identity thieves is that they steal your information and create new accounts that you know nothing about until the damage is done.
When Destroying Credit Cards
While it is obviously necessary to destroy credit cards that are expired, you may consider destroying other credit cards also. If you find that there are certain credit cards you are not using, you may want to destroy them. However, before you do so, you will need to consider whether to close the account.
If you simply want to remove the temptation of using the card or have no intentions of using it but do not want to close the account, you can leave the account open but destroy the actual card. If this is your situation, be sure to note the account information in a secure location before destroying the card. Pay particular attention to any use on the card when you receive your credit reports to be sure that it is not being used fraudulently.
If you are planning to close an account, be aware that destroying the credit card is not the same thing.
You will need to pay off the account entirely and contact the credit card issuer requesting that the account be closed. This will reduce the possibility of someone obtaining your credit card information and being able to use it. Before closing a credit card, always take the time to evaluate how it will impact your credit score.
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