Learn What to Shred

To Shred or Not to Shred. That is the Question.

Can someone legally dig through your trash looking for tasty credit card reciepts, account numbers, or your social security number? The U.S. Supreme Court implies that the answer is yes. In the decision California vs. Greenwood, they stated that the “expectation of privacy in trash left for collection in an area accessible to the public… is unreasonable.”

In other words, when you throw something in the trash, it is available to anyone willing to overlook the disgusting smells and textures of your trash can or dumpster.

What should you shred?

The easy answer – anything that has a signature, account number, social security number, or medical or legal information (plus credit offers).


The complete answer – see below.

  • Address labels from junk mail and magazines
  • ATM receipts
  • Bank statements
  • Birth certificate copies
  • Canceled and voided checks
  • Credit and charge card bills, carbon copies, summaries and receipts
  • Credit reports and histories
  • Documents containing maiden name (used by credit card companies for security reasons)
  • Documents containing names, addresses, phone numbers or e-mail addresses
  • Documents relating to investments
  • Documents containing passwords or PIN numbers
  • Driver’s licenses or items with a driver’s license number
  • Employee pay stubs
  • Employment records
  • Expired passports and visas
  • Unlaminated identification cards (college IDs, state IDs, employee ID badges, military IDs)
  • Legal documents
  • Investment, stock and property transactions
  • Items with a signature (leases, contracts, letters)
  • Luggage tags
  • Medical and dental records
  • Papers with a Social Security number
  • Pre-approved credit card applications
  • Receipts with checking account numbers
  • Report cards
  • Resum├ęs or curriculum vitae
  • Tax forms
  • Transcripts
  • Travel itineraries
  • Used airline tickets
  • Utility bills (telephone, gas, electric, water, cable TV, Internet)