I get a heck of a lot of credit card applications in the mail. A bunch for Visa, quite a few from Mastercard and tons of them from American Express. I almost always tear them in half and throw them away. Sometimes, if I am feeling particularly paranoid, I’ll tear them into little bitty pieces.

Is that good enough? Could a determined and dexterous criminal gather all the bits, tape them together and apply for a card in my name? Would a credit card company balk when confronted with an obviously resurrected application?

A test was in order, and when the latest application arrived from Chase Mastercard, I was equal to the task. The application itself turned out to be quite small, so instead of just ripping it in half, I tore it into small bits.

Next, I arranged the bits on the countertop. It actually took a surprising amount of effort to get them all flipped and aligned properly. It was the kind of methodical effort a methamphetamine addict might enjoy.

I taped the bits together from the back, so I’d still be able to fill out the application in pen.

Then, on March 4th, I got the phone call. YES! The Chase Mastercard had arrived! It was really shiny, and new, with its very own account number!

  1. Dave Drews says:

    That’s why I have a small, $15 paper shredder.

  2. david says:

    Dave, even shredded paper can be put together again by pasting the strips on a background and scanning them. A computer program could sort out the strips and piece the jumbled puzzle back together again. Looks like technology can always beat out technology, exept when technology is not used. That’s why fire is the best way to get rid of evidence. Burn that paper next time.

  3. jasontheodd says:

    You know that most banks and utilities use a bank deposit bot for cashing and depositing customers checks. I remember a local news crew sent a check, a few years back, with Bill Clinton as the signature and scribbles everywhere else. only the cash amount was written legably. The bank happily deposited the check when it was cashed by the local electric company.

  4. Scott Gant says:

    Or you could do like I do. After a long, determined effort over the past 25 years, I’ve gotten my credit so far into the crapper, that if any thief or dexterous criminal gets ahold of my application or even my wallet…the joke will be on him!

    Hey, there ARE advantages of having really bad credit.

  5. The best way to protect yourself is to place a “FREEZE” on your credit reports. I did it and now I do not worry about fraud being committed in my name. It costs $10 per credit bureau, so $30 total for all three. Here is a link to find out from the State of California how to freeze your accounts:
    That is the last state I lived in before moving to Germany so that’s where I had the freeze done. If you live in another state you may be able to do so still, just check it out on Google for your own state.

  6. david: unlikely. First, there are two kinds of shredders. One type does strips and another rips the paper into tiny tiny pieces. And second, how is one going to come across a single piece of shredded paper to paste onto a sheet so that a computer program can put it back together? When my shredded documents go out, there are hundreds in there.

  7. Mike says:

    Suddenly, I’m glad the Philippines is a cash economy.

  8. david says:

    Richard, it’s been done. I saw it on a prime-time news program where some foreigners pieced back (without the aid of a computer!) shredded documents in a U.S. embassy.

  9. Angel H. Wong says:

    Burn the damn thing!

  10. M Klink says:

    Though this site may help with getting this type of mail in the first place.

  11. Improbus says:

    Since I live in an apartment I can’t burn mine, however, I do have a nice crosscut shredder that I use on credit card applications. It makes really nice confetti.

  12. Sounds The Alarm says:

    Burn or shred

  13. Dan says:

    That photoshop job is worse than most.

  14. Dave Drews says:

    Even worse are the checks they send out to people with credit cards which they can use to pay bills or even cash. They look like regular bank checks and given they way banks don’t check signatures, someone could get money from your card without having the card number, pin, etc. I get several sets of these (there are usually at least 4 checks in each mailing) each month.

  15. RonD says:

    #5 James,
    Here in Georgia we can’t freeze our credit. State legislature had two bills this year allowing credit freezing , but both were hotly opposed by the credit bureaus (Equifax) and the Georgia Retailers Association. Credit bureaus don’t like freezing because they make money selling your credit report. The Retailers don’t like it, because consumers can’t sign up for in store “instant credit” accounts. Looks like neither bill here will pass. 🙁

  16. dh says:

    Dave Drews – FYI – I used to receive credit checks as well. I called the credit card company and asked them to stop sending them. Haven’t received a check in over 5 years.

  17. garym says:

    If you’re concerned about someone trying to tape together your shredded documents, put the shred into different trash bags. Or, you can go with an NSA approved shredder that shreds documents into pieces no larger than 1/8 inch by 1/32 inch.

  18. James says:

    why hasn’t anyone thought to like… sharpie over important sections then shred it. Can’t piece it together if you don’t know whats on it eh.

    Honestly, pulling applications out of trash cans has to be the dumbest idea ever. There are much easier way to steal your identity, which is why most identity thieves don’t rummage through garbage.

  19. Mike Voice says:

    –> There are much easier way to steal your identity, which is why most identity thieves don’t rummage through garbage.

  20. Mr. Fusion says:

    I go with james, going through garbage is a very unlikely way to loose your credit info.

    Finding a statement from someone’s health insurance is a much better way to go. It has everything an ID thief needs, address, SSN, and full name. That is what you should keep and safeguard.

  21. Kevin says:

    A shredder is more than adequate unless you are a spy and the authorities are investigation you. The point is, you don’t have to completely annihilate the paper … just make it enough of a hassle so that the fraudster will move on to the neighbor’s trash instead of yours. Hey, a thief’s time is valuable, he’s got to remain productive.

    It’s the old joke: you don’t have to outrun the grizzly bear, you just have to outrun your hiking partner.

    But, a simple additional measure is to toss half the confetti into one trash can, and the other half into another trash can that’ll be emptied at another time.

  22. Funkyfoxz says:

    Any thing with my name and address, I will tear these parts out of the letter first and eat them, then tear up the rest of the letter and bin it. The paper taste fine because most letters have toner printed on instead of ink. Ink would make my tounge black and tasted bad. Its doesn’t cost anything, just don’t let anyone see you do it or they will think you are mad.


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