People urged to shred personal documents after Ashley Madison hack

The hacking of “adultery website” Ashley Madison has brought online privacy into the news.


But it’s not just the web where personal details can be stolen.

Carelessly discarded hard copies of documents can provide enough information for your identity to be used for illegal activity.  

And Australians are being urged to dispose of them securely in the wake of the Ashley Madison scandal.

A free shredding service in Melbourne’s Dandenong and Footscray has had residents lining up to get rid of old papers.

Residents brought old bank statements, bills and tax documents to be shredded.

Local woman Robyn Synan, said her privacy was paramount.

“You read so much in the newspapers about people stealing identities and things like that,” she said.

“It just seemed sensible.”

“Shred on Site’s” Andrew Vincent said one person shredded a decade’s worth of old bills.

“We’ve got retired people who have been concerned about their documents for many years,” he said.

“People who have closed businesses down maybe five or six years ago with old documents, they’re bringing their stuff down.

Documents were shredded, then taken in a locked truck to a secure facility, where they were recycled into pizza boxes, greeting cards, takeaway coffee cups and similar.

“People try to burn it, it takes forever,” Andrew Vincent said.

“Whereas this machine does a 240 litre bin in about three or four minutes, so it’s much, much quicker.”

Identity fraud costs Australians more than $1.6-billion each year.

Phil D’Adamo from the Victorian Department of Consumer Affairs said anyone can become a victim.

“When it comes to our cash we keep our cash in our wallets, when it comes to our personal information we don’t seem to take it as seriously,” Mr D’Adamo said.

“There are scammers.”

“And with some of your information they can fish for your other information.”

Victorian Consumer Affairs Minister Jane Garrett was inspired by a similar scheme in New York.

She hoped to make “Shredfest” an annual event.

“It’s really important that you protect yourselves and your families and get rid of those documents in a safe way,” Ms Garrett said.