Credit card statements and income tax returns met certain death Saturday at Southpointe Common.
Red Deer residents flocked to the Alberta Motor Association office, the trunks and back seats of their vehicles flush with personal documents loaded with their private information they wanted destroyed, as a specialized truck hauled stacks of papers up onto its roof and down into the depths of its shredding machine.
By 10 a.m. — when the event was supposed to have begun — the RCMP, AMA and Paper Cuts Ltd. staff members had already done away with the junk of about 50 people.
“I imagine we’ll probably get five or six tons of paper (by the day’s end),” said Paper Cuts Ltd. manager Peter Kocher.
Shelley Thornton had four boxes of paperwork to dispose of. She worked from home, had confidential information she needed to be rid of and said the little shredder she has for her office can only handle a few documents at once, making it a painstaking process.
“I’m in credit collection, so I know the things that can happen if your credit card information gets out there,” said Thornton.
The purpose of the event, in its fourth year and bringing in people like never before, is to raise awareness about the importance of properly and safely disposing of documents, in light of the fraud that can be perpetrated if criminals get their hands on one’s personal information.
“Identify theft is one of the fastest growing crimes, and that’s basically someone stealing your identity for fraudulent purposes,” said Christine Waldo, AMA member services manager.
“To do that, they will go through your garbage to get your credit card receipts or anything like that . . . It’s shocking, some of the lengths they’ll go to.”
Red Deer City RCMP spokeswoman Const. Sabrina Grunow was on hand, helping people truck paperwork from their vehicles to the shredder.
She said that the finely cut up documents would be so difficult to piece back together, especially when shredded with other paperwork, that it would be virtually impossible for a criminal to do so.
Criminals are opportunistic, she added, and likely wouldn’t go to such strenuous efforts if would-be targets take precaution.
“Fraud is one of the biggest mechanisms for criminal activity in the country at the moment,” said Grunow. “It’s surpassing drug sales at this point . . . People can use that information in paperwork to obtain mortgages, car rentals, anything.”
Some identity theft operations are global in nature and can be difficult to investigate and prosecute, but federal legislation enacted this year has helped police forces crack down under new provisions in the Criminal Code, Grunow said.