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Posted: 6:00 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013

Don't risk ID theft with charitable donations

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By Clark Howard

ClarkHoward.com


Before you donate your household goods to a charitable donation outlet, take measures to protect yourself from potential identity theft.

When people donate goods to Goodwill, Salvation Army or other charities, they often don't remember to empty the drawers in the furniture or the pockets in the clothing they're dropping off. That kind of negligence could create a field day for an identity thief.

According to a stunning new report from WTHR 13 in Indianapolis, a woman was able to buy 39 pounds of personal documents at a Goodwill Outlet Store. Such outlet stores are the last stop for merchandise that doesn't get sold at the charity's regular retail locations.

Among the trove of documents the woman got were bank statements, divorce papers, pay stubs, tax returns, medical and dental records, insurance documents, checking and savings account information -- all from one family.  

In reality, I am guilty of negligence in this area too. I recently donated 2 old suitcases. As I went to drop them off, I thought, "Hey I should see what's in the pockets." Well, I found 20 euros in one pocket and some papers in another pocket that had sensitive info I wouldn't want getting out!

Do the charitable donation outlets themselves leave you open to identity theft? No...you do it to yourself, as I could have done to myself. So before you donate anything, make sure you go through the drawers or pockets to avoid any potential problems down the line. We talk about all the hacking online, but sometimes it's plain old paper documents that get us in trouble!

As for Goodwill, they're doing an internal investigation and will make sure safer security procedures like shredding of all documents becomes the norm. They also recommend donors carefully scrutinize what they're giving away so something like this doesn't happen again.

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