Gilbert resident Linda Stanfield has gone through at least a half-dozen document shredders over the years between her home and business.
She shreds receipts, credit card offers, bank and credit card statements and other personal documents before discarding them — all in an effort to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft.
But “when you go through the year and clean out things, both personal and business, you end up with boxes of stuff,” Stanfield said.
Arizona has become the nation’s leader for identity theft, where personal information is stolen and used to obtain money or services.
The crime often leaves victims with mountains of debt and years of bad credit.
Stanfield is looking forward to one of the upcoming “shred-a-thons” sponsored by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office and area police departments that provide commercial shredding services to local residents free of charge.
“Arizona is the number one leader in identity theft in the United States,” said Maryann McKessy, chief of the fraud and identity theft enforcement bureau in the county attorney’s office.
“So we’re trying to take this proactive measure to educate the public and, hopefully, cut down on those numbers. It’s not just enough to prosecute them.”
In the past six months, an average 200 identity theft cases per month have been submitted to her bureau.
McKessy points to Arizona’s proximity to the U.S.-Mexican border and high numbers of methamphetamine users for the identity theft problem.
Illegal immigrants often buy stolen Social Security numbers to help them get jobs and meth users often commit identity theft to support their addiction, she said.
Monitoring credit reports, shredding anything with personal information and keeping valuable documents in a secure location are some ways authorities say can help prevent identity theft.
But “there’s no 100 percent prevention,” she said.
“I say it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when,” she said.
“But certainly, the more proactive you are, you decrease your likelihood of becoming a victim.”
What: The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, Gilbert Police Department and Iron Mountain Records Management are sponsoring the next “shred-athon.” People can bring up to five boxes and shred their documents in a diesel-powered shred truck free of charge. Look for the shred truck in the parking lot.
• 9a.m.- noon Oct. 13 at Sam's Club, Gilbert Road and Houston Avenue
*** Note: An earlier version of this story contained incorrect information. This is the only scheduled date for the shred-a-thon. Other dates and times listed were incorrect.