Think Tearing Up Your Mail is Enough? It’s Not…

To shred or to tear: that is the question. Robert Cockerham of decided to put the matter to a test. His test subject? A newly received Chase Mastercard pre-approved application.

Step 1: Robert tears the application into small pieces.
Torn up credit application - Before

Step: 2: Robert meticulously lines the torn pieces up and tapes them together, like so.
Torn Credit Application - After

Step 3: Robert fills out the application, replacing the current billing address with a new one (his parent’s house) and using his cell phone as the phone number on the new account.

With that, he mails it in.

Step 4: Robert excitedly receives his new credit card at his parent’s house and activates it using his cell phone.
Torn Credit Application - Final


  • Tearing up your sensitive documents is not sufficient.
  • Some creditors will process applications, even if they’ve been torn up, taped together and have a new address.
  • A criminal could easily apply for credit in your name, change the address, and activate the account via a pre-paid cell phone. You wouldn’t even know what happened until creditors started calling you about your unpaid bills.
  • You must destroy all sensitive documents using a cross-cut shredder before placing them in the trash.
  • Better yet, opt-out of pre-approved offers and give your shredder and the recyclers a rest.

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Author: Richard Patterson

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  1. I just read Here She Lies by Kate Pepper which is a thriller about identity theft. The story shows what happens when identical twin sisters can no longer trust each other. One, Annie, ends up in prison for crimes she claims she didn’t commit. The other, Julie, disappears with Annie’s baby. Even so, because of a bogus paper trail created by an identity thief, not even the police know who to trust. I borrowed this book from a friend who won it in a contest and I saw why she loved it. I got right into Annie’s head and her life. I couldn’t put it down. Partly what scared me was the idea of what can happen to a person when their identity is stolen–and that happens so much these days it seems that anyone can become a victim. The novel went into how this can happen and the trouble it can bring on a person. After I read it I went out and bought a paper shredder! And I also signed up with a credit monitoring service. Can anyone out there recommend other ways to be safe in this age of identity theft?

  2. I recently obtained my three in one credit report from Experian. To my surprise were several accounts which I know nothing about. Some were deleted. There are three that weren’t. In October of 2002 someone used my name, social security number and address to open a preapproved credit card with Washington Mutual/Providian. They used a cell phone to activate the credit card, At that time I did have a cell phone. Don’t know if they used my telephone number. In January of 2003 I moved from that mailing address. I should have gotten my first bill before January 2003. I still don’t understand, if my former address was used why I did not get the credit card. I was unemployed in October 2002. They used a former employer as if I still worked there. Do you need a social security number to fill out a preapproved application? These crooks seemed to have alot of information on me. I know that it is easy for some people to obtain your records. I wonder whether this was an inside job? Searching the internet to see what I can find out about Providian.

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