Do I have to shred these leftover checks?

When I switched from the nameless evil megabank to the friendly credit union, perhaps 3-4 years ago, I was left with 6 books of unused checks (about 180 checks plus deposit slips). I said to myself “Oh, I should dispose of those safely so no-one can use them to defraud someone or steal my identity.” That’s what I said to myself. I thought of shredding them, but that seemed like a lot of bother, so I set them aside until I could figure out what to do. I don’t really have a place to burn things, and that seems like more trouble than shredding.

I still have them, sitting in a neat pile in an unused corner of my desk. I have been in a straightening-up mood lately, so I would like to deal with these.

What is the risk if I just throw them out without shredding them (either landfill or the more responsible recycling)?

Alternatives to shredding or burning? I do have a small shredder that can handle maybe 6 at a time.

If someone finds them and starts writing checks that bounce, the merchants/people that accepted the checks are going to assume that they were written by you. While you most certainly would win in a court of law, you are going to be in for a lot of hassle before it gets to that point.

At least rip the checks in half so that the account number and routing number don’t end up on the same half. Throw away the halves with the account number one week. After the trash collectors come that week, then throw away the other halves the next week.

Bonus security: rip your name and address off the rest of the check and throw that away the third week.

Shred them and THEN recycle them, or wait for a community shredding event so you don’t have to do it yourself.

You can saw throw them.

Living in the country, this is why we have a burn barrel.

Throw them in a bucket of water. Let them sit a few days. Mush them up. Toss into a garbage bag. Or compost them.

Since it’s only 6 books, it wouldn’t take long to tear out the checks first to make the soaking/mushing go better.

Is everyone assuming that the OP doesn’t have a pair of scissors in his house?

Six checkbooks, six snips.
Problem solved.

Water is easier. Put the in a large bowl with hot water, a couple of drops of detergent and anyone would be lucky to tell they were ever checks to begin with after a couple of hours or a day. Just throw the mush away after that. Very little effort involved. I can promise you that they will be unusable after about a minute’s worth of work. Wad them up like paper mache at the end if it it makes you feel better.

This is weird advice.

I just looked at the 3 banks worth of checks I have; there’s no way that you could bisect the checks in such a way that you would have the account number on one piece and not be able to figure out the routing number. Routing numbers aren’t secret. If you can figure out which bank the check is for, you can get the routing number from the internet.

When I was in the Navy, I never worked on them, but was around cryptologic machines. They had a small door that swung down like on a toaster oven. Once a day at a specified time, the operators would use a key to open the door and swap out a paper card inside, much like an IBM punch card in size, shape, and thickness but with round holes instead of rectangular. The door would be pushed shut, cutting the just-installed card on a knife within, and the two halves of the removed card would be dropped into a lock box with a small slit on top. This would change the encryption key for the day.

Once a week, a senior NCO and officer would unlock the various lock boxes and gather up all of the dead cards. They would be dumped into a large blender, a water-acid mixture would be added, and the blender turned on high for ten timed minutes while the two watched. The resulting slurry would be disposed of in some way I never witnessed.

Wait, as I read the OP, these checks are for an account that was closed 3-4 years ago. The OP no longer has any money deposited with that bank. I don’t think there’s any risk in someone acquiring those checks, except perhaps for any personal information that may be printed on them such as OP’s name and address, but that wouldn’t be hard to determine elsewhere.

Ten or so years ago when my business still accepted checks, we occasionally had people use checks on an account that was closed. It was treated the same as an NSF check, and the account was sent to collection after a set number of days.

I have scissors, but none that can cut through 25-30 sheet of paper at once; or maybe I’m just not strong enough.

I also have a small shredder.

I’m just trying to get out of the extra work. The water soaking method sounds promising.

  1. Teach yourself to rip a phone book in half.
  2. Rip the back third (including about half the account number) off each book and recycle them.
  3. Repeat for the middle and first thirds on the next subsequent recycling periods.

The water will leave you with a pulpy mess you’ll have to strain and then strainer you’ll have to clean so you don’t end up with paper pulp in your pasta.

Or do both and report back with your findings!


Umpteen years ago, I had to answer a GD warrant for my arrest because someone, somehow, got their hands on 2-3 checks from a long-closed account of mine, from a bank that didn’t even exist any more. (Fortunately, I had good proof that I was nowhere near the restaurant that accepted the checks on the date in question.) It was a big headache.

Shred, burn, or otherwise destroy the checks.

Where do you get phone books to rip up?

I’m also a fan of putting pieces into different waste streams.

Strainer? Just grab and mush a bit. Who cares if they’re soaking wet when they go in the trash bag? If anything, that’s a plus. Or you could dump the bucket on the ground and wait a minute. Or just dump the whole thing in a garbage bag, water and all.

When I’m too lazy to properly shred something, I throw it away in a plastic bag that contains what I clean out of the cat box.

However, it’s worth your time to properly dispose of unwanted checks. You can’t imagine the nightmare of having checks stolen by someone who is determined to use them fraudulently. You’ll be trying to clear your name and credit rating for years.

I like to burn stuff.

Take the old checks to your CU and ask them if they can put them into the shred bin. When you tell them why, they’ll probably be tickled pink to help you.

Heh. I breed African soft-furred rats, and one of the side benefits of owning any rodent is that shredding paper or otherwise rendering it illegible is no problem. I have a small army of willing minions who are more than capable of thwarting all identity thieves!

Do the message board hamsters need clean bedding?