Shredding documents to ward off identity theft

Columbia County KISS program started Monday. Contributed photo

HUDSON — A new program designed to keep older adults from becoming the victims of identity was started Monday in Columbia County.

KISS stands for Keeping Identities of Seniors Safe. It is a program for seniors to securely shred papers and documents, which could become a potential threat to their identity.

“It’s important that seniors feel protected and that they know they can dispose of these documents that might have personal identifying information on it in a way where they know someone is not going to take it and use it,” said Columbia County Clerk Holly Tanner, who started the program seven years ago.

When the program started it was not in all towns in the county, Tanner said. It has since grown and is now done in conjunction with the town clerks’ offices Tanner said.

“I’m happy to say every town in the county and the City of Hudson participates in this program,” Tanner said. “We now also have in Kinderhook the villages are participating which is great.”

In the KISS program, older adults can bring documents they want shredded to their town halls during regular business hours and deposit them into securely locked containers, Tanner said. People sign a waver with the town hall saying they are freely giving their documents. At the end of the program the company, Certified Document Security, removes all of the secure containers, and brings them to their facility in New Lebanon where everything is shredded and recycled.

“It’s a benefit not only to our seniors, but to our environment because you don’t have this stuff going into landfills,” Tanner said. “So its really a win-win.”

In 2013 the KISS program shredded 300 pounds of paper, Tanner said. Since then a total of 70,000 pounds, or 35.3 tons, have been shredded. The program takes place four times a year. Earlier in 2021, 5,374 pounds of paper were shredded.

“This program I should point out is no cost to taxpayers,” Tanner said. “Its free to the towns, the cost is picked up entirely through my mortgage tax recording expense, so its paid for out of that fund. Which is helpful.”

Tanner said she decided to start the program after it was brought to her attention there was seniors struggling with documents which had been piling up in their homes.

Oftentimes people try to get rid of papers and documents which can contain personal and identifying information by throwing them into the trash or by burning them, Tanner said there was not a really good way for seniors to get rid of their documents, she explained a lot of seniors would just let them pile up at home which can also be dangerous.

Garbage can become a source of information for people who may be looking to steal a person’s identity Tanner said.

“Now as we move into the internet age and technology and everything, that’s becoming a little bit less, but there is still the possibility that someone could look for your bank statement, if they get a bank account number, if you’re throwing away old tax documents, even your address sometimes can be used to start something, motor vehicle documents if someone gets your vin number.”

The town halls are all still following the COVID-19 guidance Tanner said, and commonly touched surfaces are being routinely cleaned. She said if seniors have questions about hours of operation they should contact their local town hall.

The KISS program will run again Aug. 30 to Sept. 10.

“We’re looking forward to another big quarter of shredding documents,” Tanner said,

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