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Spring Cleaning: ShredFest Coming to Tennessee

Time to purge your financial documents in a safe way. ShredFest is coming to Tennessee next week, with AARP of Tennessee sponsoring free shredding events across the state. (ChrisGlass/flickr.com)
Time to purge your financial documents in a safe way. ShredFest is coming to Tennessee next week, with AARP of Tennessee sponsoring free shredding events across the state. (ChrisGlass/flickr.com)
April 20, 2016

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - More than 17 million people -- including thousands of Tennesseans -- are victims of identity theft each year, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The most common type of identity theft is the unauthorized use of credit and debit accounts.

One of the best ways to protect yourself, experts say, is to shred paperwork instead of just throwing it in the trash. According to attorney Alan Marx of the King and Ballow law firm in Nashville, one discarded piece of mail can give a scammer enough information to call you and fish around for the information needed to steal your identity.

"In my view, what they're trying to do is build confidence that they really are who they say they are," he said. "If you throw documents away instead of shredding them, it's easier for somebody to go out there."

Now is a good time to do some paper purging, Marx said. Next week, AARP of Tennessee will sponsor ShredFests in Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville, providing large-capacity shredding equipment for each consumer to shred up to three boxes of paper documents. The event is open to the public. A complete list of locations is online at AARP.org/TN.

Nationwide in 2014, the most recent data available, identity theft cost more than $15 billion. While many credit cards and banks offer protection against unauthorized charges, Marx said the time and stress can weigh heavy on victims for months.

"It's just a nightmare. It can mess up your credit rating. It can make it difficult for you to get bank financing," he said. "You really have to prove you're you and that whoever said you were you wasn't -- and that's not easy. "

The number of people age 65 and older who are victims of identity theft is on the rise, with 2.6 million impacted in 2014. That's an increase of 500,000 since 2012.

In addition to shredding, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has advised consumers to protect online passwords and make sure those passwords are changed regularly.

More information on ShredFests is online at states.aarp.org.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TN