As spring cleaning is underway, the Better Business Bureau serving Canton Region and Greater West Virginia is offering tips for consumers getting rid of documents.

"It can be overwhelming with the amount of papers, receipts, documents, magazines and the sort we get every day," the release said. "How do we know what is safe to throw away and what we should dispose of safely?"

The BBB recommends the following guidelines for what to keep and what to shred: 

• SHRED: Information with your Social Security number. This is the most important piece of information about your identity that thieves would love to snag for tax fraud, new credit cards, and fake bank accounts.

• SHRED: Monthly bills and statements. They can contain sensitive account information. Consider calling the company and choosing paper-free billing options to cut down on mail.

• SHRED: Bills. Once bills are paid, they are no longer needed, but shred them. The exception is if you have a home-run business, in which you may need the bills for tax purposes.

• KEEP: Tax returns. The number of years to keep returns depends on the person. For the average consumer with simple taxes, keeping your returns for at least the past three years is sufficient. With more complex returns, you will want to hang on to them longer.

• SHRED: Some of your junk mail. Some junk mail warrants shredding based on what personal information it contains. Preapproved credit card applications should be shred, but items with just your home address are okay to be thrown away.

• KEEP: Pay stubs. Especially if you don't receive your checks via direct deposit, keep pay stubs around for a year. It can be helpful to double-check your total income received on a pay-period basis against the income reported to the IRS on your annual W-2.

• SHRED: Most receipts. Plenty of receipts can just be thrown away, rather than placed in a shredder. Keeping bank account, ATM and credit card transactions until they are shown correctly on your bank statement and then shredding them is a sound financial practice. The exception would be large purchases that have been insured, keep these receipts.

• SHRED: Digital media. When replacing laptops or smartphones, remember these devices can have just as much important, financial information as your paperwork. Safely destroy these items to stay out of the hands of criminals.

For more information, visit bbb.org/canton or call 330-454-9401.

— Wendy Holdren

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