Cheapism: Budget paper shredders can help fight ID theft

Scammers have lately used malicious software to pilfer credit card information from cash registers around the country. More than 1,000 U.S. businesses have been targeted, according to a recent advisory from the Department of Homeland Security, including Target and UPS stores. Consumers fretting about the credit card terminals at their favorite retailers may be overlooking a less sophisticated but nonetheless harmful source of identity theft: their trash.

Discarded bank statements, bills and other documents containing sensitive personal information can be exploited by nefarious dumpster divers. The website Fight Identity Theft provides a complete list of items that should be shredded into confetti before they’re thrown away. The potential cost of reclaiming a stolen identity makes a basic paper shredder look like a bargain.

Here are four top picks from

The AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Cross-Cut shredder

The AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Cross-Cut Shredder (starting at $55) can slice and dice as many as 12 sheets of paper at a time, even if they’re still stapled or paper-clipped together. Granted, manufacturers tend to overstate the capacities of low-cost shredders, but online reviews verify that this one handles the full dozen pages with ease. It also carves up credit cards and even has a dedicated slot for CDs and DVDs. A ShredSafe feature disables the machine if a flap over the cutting mechanism is dislodged by a foreign object, such as an errant hand. (Where to buy

The Fellowes Powershred W11C (starting at $75) accommodates up to 11 sheets in one pass and chews through staples and credit cards. Users can disable the shredder with a patented safety lock. Those who have reviewed this model online consistently label it a good value. In a product segment that draws lots of complaints about noise, many consider this paper shredder quiet. (Where to buy

The Royal CX80 (starting at $44) departs from the common design of a wastebasket with a removable shredder head in favor of a 2.75-gallon drawer, which is translucent so you can see when it needs emptying. This shredder accepts eight sheets of paper at a time, including staples, and has a separate credit card slot. Experts commend it for speedy shredding and relative immunity to jamming. (Where to buy

The Aurora AS420C (starting at $31) is a compact model with a four-sheet capacity and a 4.5-inch “throat.” That means letter-size paper must be folded in half before it’s fed into the machine; each layer of paper counts as one sheet. Many reviewers like this model because it’s portable and small enough to place on a desktop or tuck out of sight. It’s perfectly suited to receipts and can handle a credit card. (Where to buy

These are all cross-cut shredders, which experts recommend over strip-cut models that simply shred paper into ribbons. Those strips of paper are much easier for a patient and motivated identity thief to piece back together than the fragments created by a cross-cut shredder.

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