The real (and frightening) reason to always shred your old boarding passes

We’ve all done this. Before you head to the airport, you print out your boarding pass.

You go to an airline’s website to remotely check in. You make sure you have a good seat, pay for your luggage and print out your boarding pass. If you don’t have it with you, you’ll have to print it out at the airport.

You’re not getting past airline security without it, and that’s a good thing. It’s ensuring that only ticketed passengers are getting onto planes.

There is a serious downside to those boarding passes, though, and criminals know about it. Once you get past security, or arrive at your destination, you probably toss your boarding pass in the trash. Don’t. Instead, shred it.

It turns out that criminals can use the information on your boarding pass to book flights in your name. Next time you have a boarding pass, look at the information on there from a criminal’s perspective.

That tossed boarding pass probably has your name, your frequent flyer number, and other information a criminal can use to call an airline to book a flight. Plus, there’s also a barcode, like the ones you scan at grocery stores.

To most of us, those barcodes are meaningless, so we don’t even notice them. But, to a criminal, those are codes they can decode to get more of your personal information.

Criminals also take another step to make sure they know enough about you to comfortably talk to an airline agent. They’ll use your name to find you on Facebook and other social media sites. They’ll look around to see where you were born, where you went to school, your siblings’ names and more.

When they’re armed with that information, they’ll use your information to book a flight for a “relative.” Which is why it’s critically important to protect your ID.

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On the Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show, Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com. Kim also posts breaking tech news 24/7 at News.Komando.com.