One of the most powerful means of protecting your information (at least when it is disposed) is to shred paperwork, yet why am I the only person I know that owns a shredder in the home? This often overlooked tool is seen as something that’s only required in the workplace, yet we dispose of so much information in the home!

Since my identity theft – most likely caused by pilfered paperwork – I’ve been incredibly diligent about shredding any paperwork that would normally just be disposed. If you think of some of the paperwork that we need on a regular basis, there really is a significant risk. Consider an application to purchase something on credit, everything a thief needs (and more) for identity theft is sitting in those documents. If you’re doing a cleanout and you’re throwing them away, you should shred it.

Not all shredders are created equal

Beyond the space of capacity and corporate use versus personal use, shredders have different ratings to define just how secure they are. This is often depicted with a “P” (Protection Level) followed by a number, as prescribed by the Deutsches Institut für Normung (the German member of the International Organization for Standardization). These ratings may be accompanied by an “S” rating too, which is the Security level. We will focus on the P ratings for this article as they are more prevalent. In short, the higher the P rating, the more secure your shredder is.

P1 and P2 are seen as very low security methods of shredding, and are relatively wide strip cut shreds at 12mm and 6mm wide respectively. This contrasts with P6 and P7, which are sufficient for military grade and top secret shredding. P7 produces a ‘confetti’ of 1mm x 5mm pieces; to give you an idea of how small this really is, an A4 sheet of paper will be shredded into 12500 pieces at P7 level!

For general office use and confidential documents, a rating of P4 should be sufficient and a good balance between price and performance. This produces a particle of 4mm x 40mm; which is around 400 pieces per A4 page. Unlike P1 and P2, where someone could piece together a document using some tape and a lot of patience, this kind of cut ensures a lot more difficulty in any reassembly. For home use, I would recommend a P3 if budget allows, given the prevalence of data theft in this day and age.

There’s no P rating on mine!

Another way to look at these ratings, particularly if you’re looking at purchasing shredders that do not advertise a P rating, is to simply look at the type of cut. This will give you an indication of the P rating of the shredder you are looking at.

  • Strip Cut – P1 to P2
  • Cross Cut – P3 to P4
  • Micro Cut – P5 to P7

Read Reviews

The last piece of advice I will give is that you should read reviews on shredders before purchasing. These devices are prone to jam (particularly the cheap-and-nasty ones) and can also make quite a mess when you are at the higher ratings. Some manufacturers design for form over function and surprisingly have a mesh basket for confetti cuts, leaving your office looking like a wedding took place in the vicinity!

With a little diligence, you’ll easily find a brand that suits your budget and need. I implore you to go and pick one up on Amazon, Takealot, or any other online store in order to protect your data. Identity theft isn’t going away, and protecting yourself is cheap at the price.

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