It's no secret: Protecting secrets is key to business successStanley HurwitzShredding,Identity Theft,Consumer Protection,Tom McGinnis,City Shredding Corporation,FTC,Federal Trade Commission Tom McGinnis can keep a secret. In fact, some days he destroys up to 80 tons of other people's secrets. In the wrong hands, the information on the paper he chops into spaghetti-thin slices could wreak havoc with companies and individuals. As the owner of Brockton, Mass.-based City Shredding Corporation, McGinnis has seen his "secure shredding" business increase dramatically over the past year. A huge shredder he installed last year can slice, dice and bale 10 tons per hour. By comparison, a heavy-duty office shredder can shred up to 14,000 sheets of paper per day, the equivalent of 28 reams of paper or just a few hundred pounds. The Federal Trade Commission says identity theft is the nation's fastest growing crime. During 2003, approximately 10 million people were victims of identity theft. The problem is so pervasive that, on July 15, President Bush signed the Identity Theft Penalty Enforcement Act that adds two years to sentences for criminals convicted of using stolen credit cards and other personal data to commit crimes. McGinnis sees several other reasons for why his business is growing. "The cost to rent space just to store old records is expensive," said McGinnis. "After a set time period, depending on the type of documents, you can legally destroy old records and free up valuable space. Owners and managers need to know how long the law requires them to hold on to certain documents and how long they need to maintain them for business purposes. They need to have a document management, retention and destruction policy and system in place." There are a series of new laws designed to protect personal information: FACTA The Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act (FACTA) may be the first enforced national shredding requirement. FACTA requires that anyone who possesses consumer information used for a business purpose must properly dispose of such information. HIPAA The Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act (HIPAA) makes healthcare organizations responsible for secure storage and disposal of patient information. Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 requires financial institutions to show how they protect confidential information. Why is it so important that documents are shredded rather than simply tossed in the dumpster? "How would you like your most confidential records related to customers, employees, insurance or product secrets to be blowing around in a random landfill, or to be rummaged through by budding entrepreneurs in Asia," asked McGinnis. "Your discarded paper can be worth millions in the right or wrong hands." 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].