Identity theft continues to be a problem that victimizes people at a concerning clip, but in the coming weeks a number of organizations are doing what they can to help.
Several shredding days will be offered as tax season comes to a close to help local residents and businesses dispose of potentially sensitive documents that could endanger their owners.
Woller-Anger & Company in Elm Grove will offer its community shred day and food drive from 9 to 11 a.m. April 29 in the business' parking lot at 930 Elm Grove Road.
North Shore Bank will follow up that event with one of its own a week later. The bank will be offering the shredding days at all of its local branches, including one from 9 to 11 a.m. May 6 at 15700 W. Bluemound Road.
Finally, those wishing to find an easy way to dispose of outdated personal documents will have another chance courtesy of the Elm Grove Business Association, which will shred documents at the Park & Shop in downtown Elm Grove. The event was initially scheduled for April 22, but has been pushed back. The community service will be available from 9 a.m. until noon Saturday, May 13.
Elm Grove police say that while identity theft in the current criminal climate is often committed online, taking care to properly dispose of physical documents is important.
"They're getting it either off of the internet or they're rummaging through peoples' garbage and finding documents or stealing mail," Elm Grove Police Detective Craig Mayer said. "What we always tell people is shred everything."
Mayer noted that thieves can particularly focus on mail from banks that residents may simply cast aside.
"You'll receive information from your own banking institution which can clearly give somebody an idea that there's a possibility that you're banking with that institution or have a loan through that institution," Mayer said. "I've seen people rummaging through recycling bins, going through garbage cans and even going out to the dump. You can actually find a lot of information."
Mayer called shredding documents "worth taking the precaution."
"You'll notice that major businesses all have shredding companies. The old method of dumpster diving is not as common as it was in the past, but you can't rule it out," Mayer said. "You always want to err on the caution side and shred everything you can, even if it's just a flyer from your local financial institution. In this day and age, they can actually do account takeovers and mortgage fraud and it's just a nightmare for these victims."
Shred day beginning
Elm Grove Business Association President Mary Inden said the organization began offering its annual shred day four or five years ago.
"The board was talking and we talked and decided that we would try this," Inden said. "We put some signs around and people showed up; 75 cars or trucks came and unloaded for it."
According to a press release, North Shore Bank collected 40 tons of paper documents for secure shredding last year.
"We know that spring is the time of year when many people declutter their homes and sort through old personal documents," North Shore Bank Senior Vice President of Retail Banking Sue Doyle said. "Our annual Community Shredding Day provides an opportunity for residents to reduce their financial paper trail and help protect against identity theft. We encourage everyone to take advantage of this free, secure service and drop off their outdated documents to any of our local branches."
Woller-Anger will be conducting its shred day alongside a food drive and the company asks that those bringing documents to be shredded (two box limit) to also donate a non-perishable food item.