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Originally published April 29, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified April 29, 2007 at 2:03 AM

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Shredding paper turns public at Washington's first Shred-A-Thon

Many who showed up with bags of bank statements and bills at a Shred-A-Thon on Saturday already had paper shredders at home. But with the credit-card...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Many who showed up with bags of bank statements and bills at a Shred-A-Thon on Saturday already had paper shredders at home. But with the credit-card offers that show up every day and financial records to clean out, their home shredders couldn't keep up.

Katie Burks, a retiree from Madison Valley, says she doesn't trust her shredder at home because it cuts only in one direction, so she brought bills to the Capitol Hill Key Bank parking lot to get them cross-shredded.

"I usually take scissors" to the strips at home, she said.

About 5,800 people at 29 locations Saturday attended the state's first Shred-A-Thon, organized by state Attorney General Rob McKenna.

Document companies donated staff and trucks that cut up paper on site.

Steve Larsen, section chief for consumer protection in the attorney general's office, said the best shredders cut the documents into confetti, because identity thieves can put strips back together.

"We've heard stories of meth users who stay up for three to four days and put them together," he said.

One person, in Ballard, took a taxi to shred documents. Another packed documents into a backpack and jogged over to Capitol Hill. And at a location in Tacoma, one man brought in bank statements and checks dating back to 1965.

More than 5,000 incidents of identity theft are reported each year in the state, according to the Federal Trade Commission, making Washington among the 10 worst states in the country.

While there has been a lot of publicity about electronic identity theft, most identity theft is committed by people who know the victims, such as family members with drug problems and people in the neighborhood.

"If people are shredding, it makes it a lot easier" to protect themselves, Larsen said.

Sharon Pian Chan: 206-464-2958 or schan@seattletimes.com

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