Warning: Donating your stuff could leave you open to identity theft

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Warning: Donating your stuff could leave you open to identity theft
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Before you donate your household goods to a charity, you need to take certain measures to protect yourself from potential identity theft!

Read more: Why donating to online fundraisers can be dangerous

The hidden danger of your charitable donations

When people donate goods to Goodwill, the 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 report from WTHR 13, a woman was able to buy 39 pounds of personal documents at a Goodwill Outlet Store in Indiana. 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.

Clark admits that’s even he’s been negligent in the past when making donations.

‘I recently donated two old suitcases. As I went to drop them off, I thought, ‘Hey I should see what’s in the pockets,” the consumer champ says. ‘Well, I found 20 euros in one pocket and some papers in another pocket that had sensitive info I wouldn’t want getting out.’

An ounce of prevention…

Do the charitable donation outlets themselves leave you open to identity theft? No…you do it to yourself, as Clark 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.

Don’t let this deter you from giving; just take it as a warning to do your due diligence before donated items leave your home.

Read more: Year-end giving that also gives YOU a tax write off

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Theo Thimou About the author: Theo Thimou
Theo is director of content for clark.com. He has co-written 2 books with Clark Howard, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Clark Howard's Living Large in Lean Times.
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