Shredding Blog

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Let’s Bust Some Ghosts: Making Sure Office Documents Don’t Come Back to Haunt You

As fun as it can be to entertain the ideas of monsters under the bed, the things that actually keep us awake at night are more subtle – and harder to scare away.

According to Forbes, over 90% of adults regularly act in ways that jeopardize their personal information, opening themselves up to an increased chance of identity theft. The online world is an entirely separate discussion, so today, we’re going to focus on the information printed onto papers and scribbled down on notepads.

Hidden in Plain Sight: Office Risks

Every day, information is handled in a variety of ways. Most workplaces, regardless of industry, have sensitive information lying around without ever even realizing it.

  • Desk Mess – Glance at any desk in the office and you’ll see them. Old memos, meeting notes, and current work documents frequently end up scattered around, and they can be seen by any curious pair of eyes passing by.
  • Recycling Bins – There’s nothing wrong with being environmentally friendly, but what happens to the papers inside when they leave the office? Once they’re out on the curb, the papers – and any sensitive information on them – are at the mercy of whoever happens to be on the street.
  • Order Invoices – Almost every business either orders something for day-to-day operations or ships goods to customers. The invoices that accompany these orders minimally contain an address, but over time, they could also reveal a pattern of purchasing behavior, which could be used to better impersonate a certain individual or a company representative.
  • Hard Drives – You’ve dragged and dropped every old file to the computer recycling bin, so your hard drive should be fine to resell, right? Think again; the ghostly impressions of that data can still be recovered and reconstructed.

The Nightmare on Your Street: Identity Theft

The truth about identity theft is that you can do everything right and take all the precautions consumers are recommended to follow, but once your information is in the hands of a scammer, it can still be used to trick your financial institutions (yes, even credit bureaus). The problem grows exponentially when the lost information comes from a specific institution, like a legal company or public hospital. According to a joint study by Michigan State University and Johns Hopkins University, at least 169 million people had their data compromised by stolen health information over the last ten years.

Once your information has been compromised, it’s out of your control. This can be bad enough as a private citizen, spending hours on the phone, trying to sort out your financial future. If a business puts the information of their customers in jeopardy, the consequences could be dire, ranging from lawsuits to fines and, perhaps most damaging, a permanent impact on the company’s reputation.

The best way to prevent identity theft is to keep your information from ever being compromised in the first place.

Don’t Cross the Streams: Keep Sensitive Info Separate and Secure

Constant attention to detail in your daily office operations will help drastically reduce the risk of lost or stolen information, and it begins right at the workstation.

  • Consider a clean desk policy. If employees are going to be away for an extended period of time, they should first make sure that no documents are left on the desk or accessible on the desk computer.
  • Find a disposal service who shreds responsibly. After documents are destroyed, they can still be recycled.
  • Sort it immediately. Rather than shuffling everything into a pile, designate a place for sensitive documents and put them there immediately when they’re no longer needed.
  • Crush any unused or decommissioned electronic storage devices. It’s impossible to steal information off a hard drive when the memory disc is shattered into tiny pieces.

None of this is to say that absolutely everything should be shredded. Documents with no personal information on them can still be discarded normally. However, papers with sensitive data on them shouldn’t be thrown out – at least, not in the usual way. If all office waste is lumped together, a thief could dig right past coffee-stained napkins to an out-of-date customer file.

By the same token, it’s not practical to hold sensitive documents in a box or separate trash can, as the same lack of security still exists in this scenario. These papers need to be stored separately and securely, and they need to be regularly destroyed. Otherwise, they pile up, hogging office space and failing to address the problem of how to dispose of them.

Consider partnering with a scheduled shredding service. A good company will provide you with secure consoles (ours are free of charge) that can be placed around the office. Instead of throwing sensitive documents in the trash with everything else, they can be placed in these consoles, which will remain locked until your scheduled shredding day.

If you’d like to learn more about how scheduled shredding can help you clear out the office, give us a call at 973-734-1911. Our staff would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

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