Old checkbooks are not like other paper waste that you can throw in your trash bin. Like other financial documents, they hold confidential information that you cannot risk getting into the wrong hands.
There can be many reasons why you’d want to close a bank account. You probably want to close your bank account because of dissatisfaction with your bank or because you are moving to another country.
Regardless of the reason, it is best you dispose of your old checkbooks safely.
The old checkbooks from your previous account might become useless to you but it is a bad idea to leave them on a shelf or table where they sit forgotten.
We recommend you to use effective disposal methods to ensure that they don’t get in the wrong hands. The best disposal method for old checkbooks is shredding.
Let’s get into the details on how to dispose of old checkbooks.
Why is the Disposing of Checkbooks Important?
Checkbooks contain a lot of personal information, including your name, address, and account number. Canceled checks have even more personal information.
With this information, not only can someone pass a bad check in your name but can commit other serious crimes.
Given a large amount of information available online now, anyone can create a fake identity.
If this information gets into the hands of a scammer, they can get loans and credit cards in your name. With your old checkbook, a con artist can get a fake ID and working papers in your name.
These people can use your information for anything from getting income tax refunds to making payments online.
Due to the gravity of this issue, banks recommend disposing of old checkbooks right way.
Also read: Can You Throw Away Mail That Isn’t Yours?
Methods to Dispose of Old Checkbooks
There are different methods of disposing of old checkbooks. The best option is to shred the old checks. If you have no way to dispose of your old checkbook, you can always ask your bank.
Many banks offer to shred your old or unused checks for safe disposal.
We also recommend that you maintain registers of used checks and checkbooks for 3-7 years. You can take the help of your tax advisor for this.
Keep this record in a safe location that is not accessible by strangers. After this time, dispose of your checkbooks safely as per the instructions of your tax advisor.
Following are the best ways to dispose of your old checkbooks:
1. Shredding at Home
The most convenient method of disposing of old checkbooks is to shred them at home. You can use a motorized shredder for large quantities of old checks.
There are also different types of shredders you can invest in for more security.
Cross-cut shredders tiny bits of paper instead of long strips so that it’s not possible to extract any information by bringing long strips of paper together.
The downside of using low-cost shredders is that they shred in long strips. Anyone can reassemble the long strips with the help of tape to get your personal information.
You can cut through your name and other information lengthwise to ensure added security.
2. Shredding Services
If you have a lot of canceled and old checks, shredding them yourself can take a lot of time. Instead of shredding them individually, you can contact a shredding service.
Many office supply stores also offer to shred for outsiders. You can take your old checkbooks to their in-store print shops, and they will shred them in front of you.
Many banks and credit financing companies have expensive shredders for business use. They also offer their clients to shred checks on demand. They sometimes offer these services on specific dates throughout the year.
Municipalities in some areas offer shredding services to the residents on specific days. If your workplace has a commercial shredding service, you do not have to go anywhere.
Take permission from your employer and bring in your old checkbooks for shredding.
3. Using Shredding Scissors
The third option is to use shredding scissors to dispose of old checkbooks. Cutting checks with shredding scissors is a cheaper option than using a shredder.
Shredding scissors have sharp parallel blades that can shred up to 10 office sheets at a time.
They are one of the best options for disposing of old checkbooks.
With these scissors, you should cut sections that have important information. You should especially cut through your name, account number, and address.
You can then cut the shreds in the opposite direction to turn the shreds of checks into small pieces. Shredding scissors makes disposal safer as this makes it impossible to put the pieces back together.
4. Burning Old Checkbooks
Another easy way to dispose of old checks is by burning them. This method also ends the risk of someone putting back the shredded pieces together.
You should use a safe and legal method for the disposal of old checkbooks by burning.
You can use a fireplace to burn the checkbooks safely. Tossing a lot of old checkbooks at once is not a good idea. Instead, burn one checkbook at a time.
There is a risk of a flare-up if you toss entire boxes together. You can also burn them in a container in your backyard to avoid flare-ups. This method is easy, but it is important to take precautions.
5. Soaking the Checkbooks in Liquid
An environmentally-friendly method to get rid of old checkbooks is to soak them in liquid. There are different types of liquid that you can use to dispose of checks.
Put them in a baking dish and pour water, vinegar, or carbonated soda over them. Let it sit for a few days so that the paper soaks completely in the liquid.
The liquid will break down the paper into pulp, which would look like Papier-mâché.
The breakdown of paper into pulp can take from a few days to several days. This usually depends on the liquid you use for soaking.
Despite the time it takes to break down the paper, it is an effective and safe method of disposal.
6. Other Creative Options
Apart from soaking or using shredders, there are many other creative options to dispose of checkbooks.
If you have only a few checkbooks to dispose of, you can use a bucket full of boiling water and bleach. You can dump the pulp into your compost pile or discard it.
Another way is to put them in a canvas backpack and run it through a hot wash in your laundry. This method will soak the checkbooks and make them illegible.
Make sure to zip the bag properly to contain the debris during the wash.
Disposal of Electronic Checks
Checks deposited over a mobile banking app are as important to dispose of as old checkbooks. They have the same risk of con artists using your personal information wrongfully.
Most banks expect you to label these checks “deposited” or “void” to prevent any misuse. Labeling the checks will prevent the scammers from cashing them again.
You can take an extra step and destroy the check after processing to eliminate the risk.
Businesses should also be extra diligent in the handling and disposal of electronic checks. Businesses usually store copies of all kinds of financial records online, including checks.
Companies should make sure to use encrypted digital storage for safety. Encrypting the digital storage will prevent the scammers from getting access to them.
Asking the Employer to Dispose of Unused Checkbooks
Most businesses have to keep their financial records longer than an individual.
This is to keep a clean tax record of the business. Internal Revenue Service and tax advisors recommend keeping the record of old checks for 3-7 years. But, generally, there is no need to keep unused checkbooks.
The company policy might require you to keep them as a record. However, you can ask the company management for a special policy for old, unused checks.
Chances are your management will agree to your suggestion. Given the risk, there is almost no benefit in keeping them.
If the company management agrees, the fastest way of disposing of a large stock of checks is to hire a shredding service. For a business with a small stock of old checkbooks, you can invest in a checkbook shredder.
There is not much difference in the price of commercial shredders and home shredders. So, you can invest in the option that best suits your business needs.
Most people often leave their old checkbooks anywhere and do not dispose of them in the right way. Soon, they forget about them altogether without realizing the risk involved.
If they get into the hands of a thief or scammer, it can cause a lot of trouble for the account holder.
It is important to shred old checkbooks that are no longer needed for taxation or other purposes. If you are not sure about the disposal options for checkbooks, you can ask your bank for help.
Most banks shred old checkbooks of their customers without any objection.
The disposal of old checkbooks is equally important for individuals and businesses. The process is not even difficult or time-consuming. It does, however, save you a lot of money and legal trouble.
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