Event reduces reams of documents to ribbons

Bank offers help avoiding ID theft

Staff WriterSeptember 18, 2005 

Cynthia Barrow thought First Citizens Bank must be clairvoyant when she received a flier adverting its first Community Shred Day on Saturday. The part-time Cary businesswoman had personal documents dating as far back as the 1980s.

"How did they know that I had to shred all this stuff?" asked Barrow. She brought her papers to the First Citizens Bank on High House Road in Cary.

Barrow loaded her Honda Odyssey with three cardboard boxes and four grocery store bags brimming with credit card statements, cell phone bills, bank statements and other forms containing personal identifying information.

"I was worried about just throwing this stuff away," said Barrow, who has been a victim of identity theft. "So I kept it for protection."

Barrow was among at least 400 people who took boxes, bags and folders full of personal documents to one of the four First Citizens Bank Shred-Day sites in Cary.

The four-hour event started at 9 a.m., but several people arrived a half-hour early, said Christine Young, the bank's Triangle area executive.

First Citizens offered participants refreshments and handouts with tips on how to protect against identity theft, and entered their names into a drawing for a personal shredder.

It was the first time the Raleigh bank has provided the service, which it did in partnership with On-Site Shred, a Raleigh document destruction company. On-Site Shred performed the service for free but typically charges $75 for residential shredding and $40 to $50 for businesses. About 5,000 pounds to 7,000 pounds of paper was shredded inside a Mobile On-Site 40-foot truck at each location.

"This is an awareness campaign," Young said. "We want people to know this is best way to destroy documents with personal information."

In the past several years, identity theft has steadily increased. This year, both Visa and MasterCard have had security breaches that caused several banks, including RBC Centura, BB&T and First Citizens Bank, to reissue credit cards.

Last year, nearly 10 million people fell victim to some form of identity theft, costing $47 billion, said Jay Foley, co-executive director of the Identity Theft Resource Center in San Diego, Calif.

"You take your trash out, and someone comes along looking for paper with a Social Security number, and that's all they need to start messing up your life," Foley said. Foley said that method of theft is common among drug users who can get up to $250 for a name and matching Social Security number. Foley said that some of his clients have lost their homes, and a few people have committed suicide from the stress of losing their assets to identity theft.

"This is a very scary thing," Foley said.

John Pertz, owner of Logo Joes, a Cary screenprinting company, said he is worried about protecting himself and his customers. He brought about six boxes of receipts, bank statements, billing records and other documents loaded in back of his red pickup.

"Identity theft is a gigantic problem in our society," Pertz said. "I don't want them messing with my stuff or my customers."

Staff writer Vicki Lee Parker can be reached at 829-4898 or vparker@newsobserver.com.

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