While many people and businesses believe they take the appropriate steps to safeguard sensitive data, they are unaware of simple ways to truly protect themselves from the risk of fraud and identity theft that could lead to serious financial and reputational damage.
According to the 2013 "Identity Fraud Report" released by Javelin Strategy & Research, the number of identity fraud incidences continues to increase with approximately 12.6 million Americans becoming victims of identity theft in 2012, resulting in $21 billion worth of theft.
As the number of identity fraud reports continues to climb, it is imperative that people take preventative measures to safeguard their personal data to prevent fraud and identity theft.
According to Shred-it, the first step in preventing fraud is recognizing personal patterns of behavior that puts private information at risk. This could be something as simple as leaving credit card receipts at restaurants or carrying multiple forms of identification, such as a Passport or Social Security card, which are unnecessary for daily transactions. Engaging in these sort of behaviors make a consumer's confidential information more susceptible to being stolen.
In addition to altering personal behaviors, consumers should engage in protective measures such as conducting a periodic credit check to monitor for any abnormal activity, frequently changing passwords and ensuring all security software is up to date.
Despite regular news reports of businesses being impacted by data breaches, organizations from across the U.S. continue to be plagued by the loss of sensitive information. Safely and securely storing and destroying printed documents and any information stored on electronic media should be made a priority. Not doing so can lead to identity theft and fraud, which can result in serious financial impact, reputational damage, loss of customers, employee turnover and disengagement, and a decrease in competitive advantage.
Employees need to be made aware that data being lost or stolen can result in financial impact and harm to the credibility of an organization. The second step is the actual implementation of policies and procedures by enforcing sensitive data safeguarding as a company-wide practice.
As the ways companies do business continue to evolve, the development and implementation of a proactive plan for safeguarding information becomes increasingly important. If businesses want to remain competitive and profitable, they must safely and securely destroy documents and electronic media to protect customers and employees.
To help communities and organizations across the country protect themselves from identity theft and fraud, Shred-it provides the following tips to safeguard sensitive data:
Implement a "shred-all" policy. To avoid the risks of human error or poor judgment, don't ask your employees to decide which documents are confidential. Simply decide that all business documents should be shredded when no longer needed.
Don't overlook hard drives on computers. Confidential information stored on hard drives is the target of data thieves and simply erasing this information is not adequate. Physical hard drive destruction is the only 100 percent secure way to permanently destroy data from hard drives.
Make document security convenient. Have locked receptacles in the office or at easily accessible locations to ensure that no one has access to sensitive documents after it has been disposed.
Shred before recycling. Don't let confidential documents sit unattended in recycling bins.
Create a culture of security. Train all employees in information security best practices to reduce human error. Explain why information protection is important and conduct regular security audits of your office to assess security performance.
Think prevention, not reaction. Instead of just dealing with breaches as they happen, develop preventative approaches that are strategic, integrated and long-term, such as eliminating security risks at the source and permanently securing the entire document lifecycle in every part of your organization.
Shred using a professional service. It's the only way to ensure there are no security loopholes anywhere in the process.