In 2015 alone, $15 billion was stolen from 13.1 million American consumers according to The 2016 Identity Fraud Study released by Javelin Strategy and Research. In 2016, 1,459,851 consumer records were exposed because of employee error, negligence and improper disposal according to the Identity Theft Resource Center. And that is just what was reported. So many of these exposures were preventable. The business community needs to be proactive in protecting their customers, clients and employees. By taking some very simple steps to ensure the proper handling of customer’s personally identifiable information, businesses can protect themselves from data breaches and ultimately reduce the risk of identity theft for consumers.
Tips to protect your business and customers from identity theft:
- Know the Compliance Laws. There are many resources available for businesses across all industries providing help in meeting compliance standards. If you are unsure what laws apply to your business, it is always best to consult an expert. In the case of an audit or lawsuit, ignorance is not bliss!
- Include a Confidentiality Policy in your Policy and Procedures Manual. There are sample templates available to help create this vital policy. At minimum your Confidentiality Policy should include the expectations on how your business and employees treat confidential, personally identifiable information. This includes proper security, disclosure and disposal of paper and electronic documentation, as well as disciplinary actions for misuse of mishandling of confidential information.
- Train all employees. Proper training for all employees in usually built into your compliance obligations. Contact your local document and data destruction company if you need help training your workers. Professional shredding service providers will help with employee training, usually at no cost to your business, but included in the overall service provided.
- Name an individual or team to oversee compliance. The primary responsibility this job duty is overseeing and managing regulatory compliance issues within an organization. If necessary to your business operations, look at hiring a Compliance Officer.
- Hire a professional, onsite document destruction company to provide your business with secure document collection containers and provide regular shredding service. The Federal Trade Commission highly recommends businesses “conduct due diligence and hire a document destruction contractor to dispose of material…” (ftc.gov). This is a very cost-effective service and will help provide protection for your business in the event of an audit or lawsuit. The most secure option is onsite shredding with a mobile shredding truck.
- Have a “SHRED ALL” policy. Hiring an onsite shredding service that is also paper recyclers means 100 perfect of all shredded paper will be recycled. This means you can make it simple for your employees. If it is paper, it goes into the secure document collection container. This eliminates the “lazy toss,” prevents your employees from having to decide what is confidential and what is not and prevents the stacking up of documents “to be shredded.”
- Contact a professional. If you are unsure if you are in compliance with confidentiality laws, contact your legal representative, compliance officer or other professional. Don’t wait until an audit or a breach before addressing confidentiality concerns.
We are all consumers in some form or fashion, and each of us is vulnerable to the threat of identity theft. We put our faith and trust in businesses to protect our personally identifiable information. A breach of customers’ confidentiality can seriously harm the reputation of any business, not to mention the financial implications. When developing confidentiality policies, think of yourself as a customer. How do you want the businesses you frequent to handle your personal, sensitive information?
By Jen Green
Jen Green is president and CEO of Elevated Shredding, LLC, a document and data destruction company and paper/E-recycler; and Strides 2 Thrive, LLC, an agency providing day treatment and employment services for people with disabilities. To inquire about our services, call 928-522-9226, email firstname.lastname@example.org or find us on the web @ ElevatedShredding.com.