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Fraud is everybody's problem

National Mortgage Professional
Jun 22, 2005

The high price of garbage: Shredding your discarded records can protect your company and clients Stanley M. Hurwitzrecord disposal, consumer privacy, regulatory compliance Not long ago, in a seemingly simple scenario, police followed two women whom they had seen 'dumpster diving' to a nearby hotel. When arrested, the two women were sorting the contents of a dozen trash bags, looking for valuable data to use for identity fraud and corporate spying. The bags had been tossed into the trash by a small medical facility. What many executives may not know is that they could be breaking the law when they simply dump documents in the trash, according to Tom McGinnis, president of City Shredding Corporation, a document destruction firm located in Brockton, Mass. He added that many business owners and managers are often surprised to learn that their non-secure dumping of information-filled trash could result in big fines. "Everyday in every city, companies of all sizes toss bags of 'useless papers' into a dumpster or leave overflowing wastebaskets for the cleaning crew," said McGinnis. "Owners and managers must realize that they are not only giving away personal data, but they may be giving away the store--all their company secrets." There are several laws that address the safe disposal of consumer information. For example, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 addresses how industries share and protect information about customers. The 2003 Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act (FACTA), perhaps the first enforced national shredding requirement, requires that anyone who "possesses consumer information used for a business purpose ... must properly dispose of such information." McGinnis offers several hints to help companies protect their data. First, use centralized, "locking" containers to dispose of sensitive documents. Contract with a certified document destruction firm for regularly scheduled destruction. It is also important to educate management and staff on the dangers of untracked trash, and finally, appoint someone to oversee document destruction and review your company's compliance on a regular basis. Stanley Hurwitz is a public relations and marketing consultant with Stoughton, Mass.-based Creative Communications. He can be reached at (508) 269-0570 or e-mail [email protected]]
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