Throwing out old checkbooks
January 10, 2010 1:58 PM   Subscribe

How safe is it to recycle old, unused checkbooks?

I found a box of old checkbooks with addresses two apartments ago and figure I'll never use them. I don't have access to a shredder. I'd rather just toss them in with the rest of the recycling tonight, but I'm wondering how paranoid I should be that someone will pick it up and write checks with it before it makes it to the recycler's paper shredder.
posted by lou to Grab Bag (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Next time you're at your bank, ask them to shred them for you.
posted by spaltavian at 2:01 PM on January 10, 2010


I'd try to cut them up as best you can before recycling them. At least cut up the address and bank information.
posted by k8t at 2:02 PM on January 10, 2010


If it is a different account number from a closed account, next to no problem.

If the account is still open, I would tear them all up. Actually, all you have to do is tear half of the account number off of each check and deposit the torn corners into a different trash cycle.

Because the account number is the important part.
posted by gjc at 2:03 PM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


If it is an active account, the incorrect address has nothing to do with it. If it is an active account, either take them to the bank as spaltavian suggested, burn them, or cut the account number in half and then recycle.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 2:16 PM on January 10, 2010


I have one of those banks that don't have physical branches, so I feel that might be out of the question. But ripping up the account number half might be a good idea.
posted by lou at 2:23 PM on January 10, 2010


It's worth it to invest in a shredder, you can get them for as low as $20. You should be shredding anything with personal information.

You're going to have to hand shred them - make sure you get your address/phone and the account number.
posted by wongcorgi at 2:30 PM on January 10, 2010


At first glance I thought your username was "iou," which would have made this thread the epitome of eponysteria.

Another thing to note is that your previous addresses can be used as information to verify your identity when, e.g., signing up for a new bank account. (ING Direct asked me for valid previous phone numbers and addresses when I signed up for an account there, presumably matching them up from information on my credit report.) Having both a previous address and a valid account number could make it easy for a third party to pretend to be you. I'd say don't risk it: wait until you have the means to destroy the checks before you throw them out.
posted by aparrish at 2:39 PM on January 10, 2010


Don't rip the account number in 1/2. Rip it in as many pieces as you can handle.
posted by k8t at 2:40 PM on January 10, 2010


I'd be paranoid. I had someone writing bad checks in my name from a previous address (they printed up checks with a fictitious account number) and the collection agencies found me and came after me anyway. The onus was on me to prove my innocence, so each time I got a collection notice (usually from a big name box store), I had to provide a notarized letter from the bank stating that this was not my account. This went on for at least 6 months, and became like a part-time job to defend myself and make sure my credit history stayed clear. Totally worth waiting until you can find someone with a shredder.
posted by amusebuche at 2:50 PM on January 10, 2010


If you toss them out with regular garbage, no one will ever know.
posted by Max Power at 2:50 PM on January 10, 2010


You have to remmber that when you write out a check, you then hand it over to a complete stranger. The details on a check are not confidential.

What you need to prevent though is anybody picking up that old checkbook and actually writing a check. So just rip them in half. And throw the two halves in different trash cans or collection cycles.
posted by Xhris at 2:58 PM on January 10, 2010


I use my old checkbook (old address, but my mom still lives there) all the time. I would treat them like throwing out NEW checks.

From a laziness-filter point of view, I would consider putting them in water overnight and seeing if they wouldn't somewhat disintegrate.
posted by anaelith at 3:07 PM on January 10, 2010


You have to remmber that when you write out a check, you then hand it over to a complete stranger. The details on a check are not confidential.

Yeah, and when you use a credit card, you're showing your credit card number to a complete stranger. Doesn't mean it's safe to publish.

The real danger of a malicious hands getting your old checkbook isn't the writing of checks, but that your bank account and routing numbers are on there. I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure these are sufficient for someone to initiate an ACH transfer to pull money from your account.

Burn it.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 3:25 PM on January 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


DO NOT THROW THOSE CHECKS IN THE GARBAGE. If someone finds them and forges your name, you will be in for some serious headaches until the person is caught/prosecuted. Shred, burn, cut up with a pair of scissors, or tear them up by hand but do not get rid of them in a way that someone else could get their hands on them. I run a bad check unit in a District Attorney's Office in California and have seen what kind of havoc can be caused by not handling unused checks properly.
posted by eleslie at 5:22 PM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just to clarify. The ripping the account number in half is only part of the solution. You have to throw one half of check into one garbage can, and the other somewhere else.

As long as your account number is a mystery, you are as safe as you can be.
posted by gjc at 6:32 PM on January 10, 2010


nthing shredding - I've lost my checkbook (in my house - I only write one check a month) before and have resorted to using checks with several-years-ago addresses on them until I found it. as long as the routing and account numbers are correct on the check, it'll get cashed.
posted by mrg at 6:41 PM on January 10, 2010


Soak it for a while in soda.
posted by jroybal at 7:34 PM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Shredders are pretty fun. NNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNyrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrHHHHHHHHHHH!!
posted by Jilder at 12:23 AM on January 11, 2010


I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure these are sufficient for someone to initiate an ACH transfer to pull money from your account.

No, the names on the accounts must match as well. Otherwise anyone you wrote a check to could suck your account dry.
posted by smackfu at 7:14 AM on January 11, 2010


If you have any kind of customer-type relationship with a local bank or even are on friendly terms with the workers there, you could try nicely asking them to throw the old checks into their shredder.
posted by QuantumMeruit at 12:56 PM on January 11, 2010


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