MIAMI - With tax season just around the corner, many consumers will be sorting through plenty of documents loaded with personal information.
Experts say when finished with any of that paper, it's best to place it right into the shredder, or risk your identity being stolen, especially in Florida.
Diane Zartner has never been a victim of identity theft, but she's shredded old bills, credit card applications and even junk mail for years.
"Even my pill bottles, I take the labels off and I blacken out my name and what type of prescription I take," said Zartner. "I don't trust anybody anymore."
But shredding all those catalogs, order slips, even receipts, she said, drives her crazy and she wonders if it's even necessary.
After all, a simple search online and you can find almost anyone's name or address.
"The more effort you create for someone to get to your information, the more apt you are to make them go somewhere else," said Florida Department of Law Enforcement Special Agent Danny Banks.
Banks says identity theft is still one of the biggest crimes in the nation, and year after year, Florida ranks first.
Last year, there were nearly 34,000 reported victims in the Sunshine State. Georgia ranked second, but with only one-third of the complaints.
Banks warns even receipts with just part of a credit card number can give identity thieves the opportunity they need.
"When they get you one time, they may get you for several thousand dollars," said Banks. "A $20 investment in a shredder is many times over worth what it's going to save you if your identity is stolen and someone takes money out of your bank account."
Frank Holzkamp, an IT consultant, knows all too well how information can be used to steal your identity.
"Anybody who goes into their banking account now, there are several security questions that it asks you, it asks the high school you went to, your mother's maiden name, where you grew up, your pet's name," said Holzkamp.
All information, he said, can be found in someone's trash.
Holzkamp believes even something as simple as a grocery receipt can give thieves the clue they need to hack your accounts.
"They see on a receipt you have a dog. Well, they find out what your dog's name is, they get your social security number, they can now do a password reset on your online banking account," said Holzkamp.
He takes his shredding one step further using a cross cut shredder cutting paper into tiny pieces.
And for people like Zartner, who's seen people go through her trash before, she's not taking any chances.
"You know if you're just going to throw your paper work in there, you're just giving away everything," said Zartner.
Click here for more tips on protecting your identity.
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