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We have discussed ways to destroy documents without a shredder, but how can I easily destroy the personal information contained on packages I receive through couriers (like shipping bags, Amazon boxes, etc)?

These packages are often labeled with personal information like billing and shipping address, phone numbers, and sometimes even email addresses. The labels stuck on these boxes and bags are hard to remove, and cutting them with scissors is usually too difficult. These boxes and bags are sometime made of harmful plastics, so burning them would not be good for the environment.

So what would be the good method to destroy the information or the packages themselves?

6

What I use in these situations is a Sharpie Magnum.

In my experience, these are fairly good at blacking out information on package labels. But you have to keep in mind that most of this information is fairly public and readily available (not to mention any package handler had access to it before it was handed off to you).

You could always take an extra step and scratching bits of the labels off with a knife or scissors, but that's probably not necessary in most cases. If a bad guy was on the lookout to do harm to someone, the information they could get from a blacked out shipping label would likely not be worth their time anyway.

Try to obscure (or even cut out, if you want to sacrifice convenience for security) parts that are most sensitive, then black out everything.

In case you don't feel like buying a sharpie, I'm certain something like a nice coat of black spray paint would do the trick. But unless it's particularly sensitive information (which should never be on your package anyway. If it is, there are other issues here), worry more about making it inconvenient to retrieve, rather than impossible. Destroying a document is just on another level altogether.

  • Great info! I have a permanent marker, but with sharp point. I will buy it. Problem is they put a bill in plastic bag and stick that plastic bag on box. So to remove it we first need to tear the plastic, get the bill (which is also in our email inbox). When this plastic bag which contains the bill/address is stick on main another large plastic container, removing that plastic bag is a tough task. But combination of scissor and permanent marker would be a very good idea! – kirtan403 Sep 2 '16 at 14:34
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    +1 for the suggestion to scrape off information with a knife or scissors! – BrettFromLA Sep 2 '16 at 19:53
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I recommend getting a ball-point pen the same color as your printed information, then drawing tight loops and curlicues over the top of the letters you want to obscure. The loops and curlicues will make it confusing to figure out what each letter/number is. A wide, permanent marker may still allow the letters and numbers to show through, especially on close inspection.

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Follow up the curlicues with a coating of opaque correction fluid (like Liquid Paper or Wite-Out).

5

Get a torch lighter. Nothing heavy duty, just a five dollar single jet. These are great for most shipping labels for a good reason:

Many of the labels used for shipping, especially Amazon and UPS, use a thermal-reactive label. This helps with the printing process on their end I believe, but it also means that a quick application from the torch can completely black out any details on your packaging.

This is, of course, with the understanding that you are a responsible adult who knows to use this method in a well ventilated area, and not to apply the torch long enough to cause the package to actually burn. It shouldn't be longer than half a second to black out the label without causing any fires. Just keep in mind that this works for most, but not all, labels like this. There are still a few ink-based labels in use and those will just burn instead of blacken from this.

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I peel the label off carefully as not to tear it. Then I use my personal shredder. To make sure that the blades don't get clogged with the sticky adhesive, I stick the label to a piece of paper that I was already going to shred, so the blades aren't exposed to the glue. It works better than a sharpie, however, it takes a little longer and some patience. (Picking the label off is sometimes tough.) If it's stuck firmly to a cardboard box, just cut that section of box out and peel the cardboard skin off with the sticker and you'll be good to shred from there.

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Bury the information.

A short burst of Black Enamel Gloss finish from an aerosol can of spray paint will anonymize any label. It's OPAQUE and cheap, dries fast, and stupid easy (the big three).

Another special product called Opaque "Maskout" is a spray paint that matches the cardboard box colour for a more attractive finish to re-use or for storage (in neater, less busy-looking). It's available in oyster (white) or kraft (tan).

Maskout quickly covers old markings. Makes old cartons look like new.

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Take it to a local business that has document destruction shredders that will cross shred or turn to pulp.

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    Typically preferred answers here are something the OP can do at home with common household items. If you have additional questions about writing answers, please see the help center lifehacks.stackexchange.com/help – L.B. Mar 25 at 14:28

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