San Antonio Federal CU held its first "Shred Day" to help protect members from "dumpster diving" identity thieves during tax time.
For four hours on the Saturday before the tax-filing deadline, community members took their piles of old mail, credit card receipts and tax preparation papers to SACU's main branch, where four commercial shredding trucks in SACU's main branch parking lot devoured them.
"At this time of year, especially around tax time, everyone is overrun with excess paper,'' said Chris Jacobs, SACU first vice president. "Much of the material is sensitive and needs to be shredded or destroyed to keep it out of the hands of those who might use it inappropriately.''
With identity theft on the rise, throwing paper in the trash is not the wisest move, she said. And, while home paper shredders are valuable tools, they don't always shred to the point of no return.
"If someone really wanted those documents, they could piece them back together.''
Jacobs said the free service was coordinated with the help of the local chapter of the Association of Record Managers And Administrators and two shredding companies-Global Shred and Iron Mountain.
The non-profit ARMA typically partners with Office Max to conduct shred days across the country, Jacobs said.
But, because the date scheduled for San Antonio conflicted with a popular community fiesta, it had to reschedule.
Jacobs said there were no out-of-pocket expenses to the credit union, which donated the use of its parking lot and mailed press releases to broadcast and print media to advertise the event.
"It was a freebie and it was absolutely good for the community,'' Jacobs said. In addition to giving people piece of mind about their sensitive information, there's another benefit.
"Our landfills aren't getting any smaller,'' she said, noting that the documents that are shredded are then recycled.
While the turnout wasn't as good as she had hoped due to the quick deadline, Jacobs said the 50 or so people who participated expressed their gratitude.
"Some people hang onto this stuff for years because they don't know what to do with it,'' she said. "Others try to burn it.''
After a bad experience with a company SECU thought was shredding its documents, the credit union now hires a truck to do all the shredding onsite. "We handed our documents over to a company (whose staff) said they were shredding our documents,'' she said of the previous arrangement. "Instead, the documents were being bundled and sold to a recycling place in Canada.''
She said credit union officials found out after someone from Canada called and said they had some cancelled checks from SECU.
During the CU's Shred Day, one of the trucks was equipped with a camera and a television to watch the shredding process.
With its first Shred Day come and gone, Jacobs said she is already thinking of ways to improve next year's event with newsletter announcements, statement stuffers and fliers for members who pass through the drive-thrus.
"Shredding is becoming so much more important,'' she said. "If you are going to get rid of something, you better make sure you're really getting rid of it.''