With tax time just finished and with identity theft such a hot-button topic today, I thought it was time for me to revisit the topic of shredders, so I went to Fellowes, a recognized industry leader in consumer and office shredders, and I found much has changed in two years.

I don’t know about you, but I have actually worn out shredders putting them to the test.  One thing that experience taught me was the importance of getting the right shredder for the job.

Keeping on topic, you need a shredder.  Yes, Y-O-U.  It is a sad commentary on the times, but the fact remains there are bad people out there who, if given the opportunity, will steal your identity.  What does this mean?

It means these low-lifes get account numbers and other personal information, even including your Social Security Number and wreak havoc on your life for months or even years, and can ruin your credit.  They can open accounts in your name, bilk the unsuspecting companies out of sums of money, and then vanish.  It means they might gain access to your bank accounts and remove YOUR money.  It means they might run up charges in your name for merchandise and services you never wanted nor ordered, yet it would appear YOU are the initiating party and YOU, dear friends, are left to sort it all out.  That is a nightmare I would not wish on any of you.

How is it avoided?  Your first line of defense on a day-to-day basis is to buy and USE a shredder to destroy the thief’s ability to gain access to information you have in the form of written documentation you would otherwise simply throw out in the regular trash.  This information might include old bank statements or information that comes with the bills you pay.  It will include your old checks and other financial documents that you may throw away after many years.  It includes all those offers that come in the mail from companies you do business with or those who are vying for your business.  In short, to be most prudent, it includes documents with any information tying them to your name, address, phone number, account names and numbers of any type, even your frequent flyer numbers or other memberships.  Shred to protect YOURSELF.

Start, as I did, with the informative and easy to follow guides offered online by Fellowes.  Click on the Selection Guide, the Identity Theft Facts, Records Management Tips, Record Retention Guide, Preventing Identity Theft and even Corporate Espionage.  You will discover an eye-opening array of pertinent and useful information to help you make an informed decision.

What I found was that the new crop of shredders is better than ever. Well, I expected this much.  I was pleasantly surprised at how quiet they are as compared to those from just a couple of years ago.  That makes a BIG difference.  Next, I discovered there are so many products it may be difficult for some of you to decide what to get.  Here is what I did.

First, I decided to check out something small, for folded sheets, credit card receipts and other small jobs.  For convenience, I chose the maximum protection of the ShredMate Shredder, for the desktop or next to the trashcan on the floor.  This ShredMate is capable of disposing of up to four half folded sheets at a time and it makes confetti of the paper.  That is, it is a cross-cut model, as opposed to strip-cut shredder.  Just place the documents in the slot and the auto-start mechanism makes mincemeat of the paper, send it into the clear bin below.  There is a multi-position switch that takes it from Off to Forward (actually reverse) to Auto.  Small, fast and efficient.  This one is not the quietest, but neither is it the noisiest.  It is easy to see when it is time to empty the bin, which holds about 35 shredded sheets (compacted).  Get this if you do not have mounds of things to shred because it is not designed for more than a few passes at a time before resting for up to 25 minutes.

For regular use in a dorm room or anywhere space is at a premium and where security needs are primarily junk mail, and not a lot of it, but not lots of documents containing your sensitive identity information, I chose the $25 FS5 Shredder without Basket.  This is a simple strip-cut model that can sit atop an existing trashcan ready for use whenever it is needed.  Again, this is a light-duty unit, covered by a one-year warranty.

Moving up the scale in performance, I tested the PS60C-2, a $162 list priced shredder I found for about $89 through pricegrabber.com.  Here is a medium duty home and office confetti-cut shredder for increased security with the ability to shred seven sheets per pass and 25-30 passes per day for about 350 total sheets per day.  It has a quiet motor, too.  There is a clear window in the included 6.5-gallon wastebasket that allows the user to see when it is full. This shredder can accept staples, credit cards and small paper clips, too.  If it gets worked too hard, it has a thermal limiter that stops it and turns it off until it cools down to an acceptable operating temperature.  This shredder is a bargain, and may be of use to shred lots of old documents so long as its use is spaced out to prevent overheating.  Maintenance includes monthly lubrication of the cutter assembly with a vegetable oil such as corn or canola oil, and NOT petroleum-based lubricants, which are flammable.  Instructions are in the manual.  This product is covered by a five-year warranty.

For heavier-duty jobs with up to 15 sheets per pass, up to 100 daily passes for about 1200 total sheets per day, and the ability to shred all of the above plus CDs, have a look at the PS70-2CD, with the lowest delivered price of about $130 at http://www.thenerds.net. This is a strip-cut model.  Why shred CDs? Well, not music CDs!  How about destroying those computer data back-up CDs you are making?  (You are backing up your computer data on CD, aren’t you?)  As today’s burn is rendered obsolete by the next back-up, you need to properly, securely dispose of all that Quicken data and other personal info you are backing up at least weekly, and this shredder is up to the task.  It shreds CDs into little strips.  You may certainly use a screwdriver or other implement to deeply scratch the data side of a CD or break it in two, if that is your inclination.  These methods of destroying data are fine, but shredding makes the process even easier.  Maintenance includes monthly oiling as above.  Covered by a seven-year warranty, this is a strip-cut shredder with its own seven-gallon wastebasket (with a viewing window on the front) that pulls out for emptying from the front, where the PS60 lifts off the trashcan so it can be emptied.

So, here you have seen shredder samples in four categories. I noticed that strip-cut shredders generally accept more documents per pass than more secure cross-cut, or confetti shredders.  I also noticed that heavier duty strip-cut shredders are less expensive than confetti-cut models.  Finally, as the models progressed in their heavier duty cycles, so, too, did the length of the warranty. The wisdom here is that it may be important to pay a bit more for the occasional heavier duty machine than to buy less than is needed and have to wait for the unit recover from auto-shutdown, cool down and become ready for use once again.

Protect your identity!  Shred your documents.

For more information, visit www.fellowes.com or call 1-800-955-0959.

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