It’s essential to protect your important documents. 

Protecting documents from a natural disaster or fire will keep the original document intact for when you need it. 

Likewise, keeping digital files secure will prevent your documents from being stolen or corrupted.

In this guide, we’ll explore how to keep important documents safe physically and digitally.

1. Store physical copies in a secure location

A secured location can be a safety deposit box, document safe, fireproof and waterproof box, or filing system in your home or office. Additionally, these items might have the additional safety feature of a lock or passcode.

Normally, paper takes about 2 to 6 weeks to degrade. However, when stored out of direct light in a cool, dry place, paper can take several years to degrade. 

Safely storing your documents will give you access to important and personal papers for years to come.

Storing documents keeps your identity safe and makes it easier to locate important papers at a moment’s notice.

Make sure that the storage option you choose has enough room to keep important documents without taking up too much space in your home. 

If you have a place where a deposit box can be hidden in plain sight, this can be an added bonus.

Book with a cover of Paris. But inside is a safe deposit box. Place this item with any other books, and no one would know its a hidden deposit box.
Hidden deposit box disguised as a book to put on your shelves, Amazon

2. Make digital backups of your documents

Creating a digital backup for your documents is one way to ensure that you have an extra copy to access at any time. 

You can save these electronic copies on an external hard drive, cloud storage service, or digital filing cabinet to prevent losing essential documents from computer crashes, viruses, or other issues.

To save your important papers digitally, you can use a document or a receipt scanner to upload them to your computer. 

Shoeboxed and Magic Envelope, for example, are easy on-the-go scanners for financial documents, such as receipts. 

When there are too many items to scan, Shoeboxed’s Magic Envelope lets you stuff all of your receipts into their prepaid Magic Envelope to scan the documents for you.

How to send your receipts with Shoeboxed’s Magic Envelope

3. Use password protection on sensitive documents

Setting a password on sensitive documents restricts access to the document that can only be lifted by entering the password. 

Using a password can also restrict certain actions within the document, such as editing or printing. 

Sensitive documents may include:

a. Certificates

  • Birth certificates
  • Divorce or marriage certificates
  • Death certificates
  • Child custody papers

b. Personal documents

  • Social Security cards
  • Educational enrollment
  • Medical records
  • Citizenship-related documents

c. Financial records

  • Bank or credit union statements
  • Credit card statements
  • Tax records such as annual tax returns or business documents
  • Estate-planning documents
  • Loan information

Always keep the original documents in a secure location. 

Any of these digitally-copied items should have password protection on it, as over 212.4 million American users had their data breached in 2021.

For most computing systems, you can follow the steps below to secure your digital document with a password:

  • File > Info > Protect document > Encrypt with Password
On Microsoft word, you can go into your files, info, permission, encrypt with password to add a password to your documents.
How to add a password on a word doc with Microsoft Word, Online Tech Tips

You can also search for passwords in your computer help bar to add a password to your files.

4. Shred old documents

It’s a good idea to check if any documents are no longer needed. If they aren’t needed, then you can shred them to declutter your papers.

Each document has its own rule of thumb for when it can be shredded.

For example, you should immediately shred your paystub once the money is transferred into your account. 

For tax-related documents, it’s recommended that you keep those for at least 7 years. Northwest Community Credit Union explains which documents should be kept and for how long.

Using a shredder protects any of your personal information, such as your home address and card information.

5. Level up with document encryption

Encrypting a document is different from using a document password.

Instead of using a password, encryption involves scrambling what’s inside the document. Those without the passcode will be unable to read it unless the correct code is entered.

Using encryption will protect sensitive information on your documents.

You have a readable plain text. When you encrypt it, the text become unreadable. After entering the password (the decryption), then you. will be able to read the text again. 

A simplified explanation of how encryption works, Shoeboxed
A simplified explanation of how encryption works, Shoeboxed

Every 39 seconds, there is a new cyber attack on the web

To prevent your documents from getting stolen, it’s recommended to use document encryption when storing documents online, especially if you’re sending any of them through email. 

This process will ensure confidential information, such as social security numbers and credit card numbers, is protected from hackers or phishing attacks.

You may need to install document-encoding software. That said, some digital filing systems, such as Microsoft Office, already allow you to encrypt your document.

Files, Info, Protect Document, Encrypt with Password

How to encrypt a document with Microsoft word, Wayne State University
How to encrypt a document with Microsoft word, Wayne State University

Final thoughts

Learning how to keep important documents safe protects your identity. 

By taking these steps, you’ll be able to secure your documents and know they’ll be safe until you’re ready to access them.

About Shoeboxed!

Shoeboxed is a receipt scanning service with receipt management software that supports multiple methods for receipt capture: send, scan, upload, forward, and more!

You can stuff your receipts into one of our Magic Envelopes (prepaid postage within the US). Use our receipt tracker + receipt scanner app (iPhone, iPad, and Android) to snap a picture while on the go. Auto-import receipts from Gmail. Or forward a receipt to your designated Shoeboxed email address.

Turn your receipts into data and deductibles with our expense reports that include IRS-accepted receipt images.

Join over 1 million businesses scanning & organizing receipts, creating expense reports and, more—with Shoeboxed

Try Shoeboxed today!