Top Three Businesses Vulnerable to Dumpster Diving ID Theft

paper shredding to prevent dumpster diving identity theft

While most businesses secure their online properties with firewalls and encryption, there are still some industries that are exposed to the risks of identity theft through old-fashioned dumpster diving. The emphasis on digital security has caused many businesses to let their guard down when it comes to the adequate destruction of confidential documents. As a result, many identity thieves utilize dumpster diving tactics, focusing their activities on certain types of small businesses, hoping to score big with offices that have left gaps in their identity theft protection plan. Not only do businesses risk the identity theft of their customers and clients, they also risk litigation for improper disposal of confidential information: See the federal HIPAA and FATCA guidelines.

Medical and Dental Office Shredding

While most large hospitals incorporate shredding into their identity theft policy, smaller clinics and medical offices may not be taking the necessary steps to protect the identities of their patients.  A Denver area medical office settled for their identity theft violation which involved disposing of unshredded confidential patient information in an unsecured container: Read more about how  HIPPAA takes trash seriously.

Identity thieves will target small clinics and dental offices, looking for negligence in document shredding in the dumpster behind the office building. Another case involved a Georgia medical clinic in which documents containing patient Social Security numbers, bank account information and names and addresses were found freely accessible by anyone willing to climb inside the dumpster. Learn more about this  Dumpster Diving Case.

In some instances, as in this case in Bloomington, proper shredding can actually be an issue of personal safety to customers:  A drug addict stole Margie Kerr’s pain medication after showing up at the grandmother’s front door. According to police, the thief targeted Kerr after finding her prescription records in a dumpster behind her Bloomington drug store.*  What cross-cut office shredders are best for medical practices and pharmacies.

Real Estate Office Shredding

Prospective home buyers fill out credit applications every day in real estate offices, assuming the sensitive information is properly handled. In many cases it is, but in some instances, busy agents may not take the time to shred confidential documents. Often large volumes of credit applications are piled up by a shredder, only to be discarded without being destroyed. A smart identity thief only has to wait until after hours to see what the dumpster behind a real estate office contains.   Automatic Shredding Solutions for Busy Real Estate Offices

Retail Business Shredding

When you apply for a car loan or fill out paperwork for financing at a furniture store, your completed credit applications may not be handled properly either. In one case at a closed North Atlanta car dealer, Social Security numbers, federal tax information and bank account information were found by authorities. Often closed businesses, having kept confidential files for long periods of time, will dump these documents without shredding­­–an illegal act in most states! Use an office paper shredder to keep your business legal.

Micro Cut Shredder Recommended by Former Con Man

 

99ms-microcutshredderFamed former con man Frank Abagnale, as depicted by Leonardo DiCaprio in the film Catch Me If You Can now offers his talents for good, helping others avoid becoming victims of identity theft. Abagnale states that he shreds everything with a micro-cut shredder, “even if it’s worthless.”

Why Micro-Cut Shredders Are Important

  • Micro Cut Shredders take shredding to the next level, basically turning documents to dust with 10x smaller shreds.
  • Smaller shreds also means less frequent emptying of the waste bin. A micro cut shredder bin holds 80% more Micro-Cut particles per gallon than standard Cross-Cut.

Selecting A Micro-Cut Shredder for the Office

The best micro-cut shredder for a small office or home office can shred 14 sheets per pass into 5/64”x 9/16” micro-cut particles (Security Level P-5)

The best micro-cut shredder for larger offices shreds 14 sheets per pass into 5/64” x 15/32” Micro-Cut particles (Security Level P-5) and features continuous duty motor offers non-stop shredding.

Learn more about what Abagnale says about shredders: paper shredding advice from Abagnale

“Every FBI office in the US uses a micro-cut shredder.”

 

Why Businesses Are Upgrading to Automatic Shredders

With government regulations demanding compliance with identity protection guidelines and an increase in high volume shredding, companies are seeking new ways to improve productivity of the shredding process with automatic paper shredders.

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Many businesses choose off-site shredding companies as a convenient solution. However with this hands-off service, comes a few drawbacks including high prices and a risk of exposing confidential information to an external vendor.

Many businesses instead are using automatic on-site shredding. The single cost purchase of an automatic high volume shredder provides long-term shredding without the hefty service fees of shredding services. And an on-site commercial shredder keeps all confidential information in the office.

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Most importantly, auto feed paper shredders also provide a hands-free experience. Users simply load the bin, push the button and walk away. From a productivity standpoint, this means employees spend less time shredding and more time on other more important tasks. Another important feature are safety locks, which prevents the shredder from being opened after it begins the shredding process, so confidential documents remain safe until completely destroyed.

Automatic shredding also allows the shredding process to occur in a timely manner, eliminating the risky build-up of confidential documents waiting to be destroyed, making confidential shredding an important perk of automatic machines.

The value of automatic shredding spans across many industries that handle sensitive materials.

Healthcare

Medical clinics and hospitals can quickly destroy reams of sensitive patient information as medical records clerks purge old files in less time.

Law

Law clerks find automatic shredding useful for past client records or destroying the duplicate paperwork of a long case.

Finance

Accountants use automatic shredding to maintain a consistent storage and destruction cycle for business records. Large quantities of sensitive documents  are usually in immediate need of shredding, and the process can take accounting clerks weeks to properly dispatch such paperwork.

Real Estate and Mortgage

Credit apps from home buyers quickly pile up on a realtor’s desk, unfortunately a desk often left unattended while showing homes. Automatic shredding saves real estate companies time by allowing these documents, which often contain social security numbers, bank account numbers and driver’s license information, to be quickly shredded without delay.

Establishing a Visual Security Policy for Your Business

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While many businesses take strong measures to protect against data breaches, investing in firewalls and other technology to defend their computers, the impact of a visual security breach is sometimes forgotten. Recent research reveals the apparent ease and risk with which visual data security breaches can occur on a regular basis.

A survey of IT professionals conducted by BH Consulting for this paper found that:

  • 85% of those surveyed admitted to seeing sensitive information on screen that they were not authorized to see
  • 82% admitted that it was possible information on their screens could have been viewed by unauthorized personnel
  • 82% had little or no confidence that users in their organization would protect their screen from being viewed by unauthorized people*

 

The risk for businesses ranges from identity theft of customer information and the legal consequences that can bring, as well as acts of corporate spies internally accessing confidential data that could compromise your business.

Establishing a visual security policy helps prevent this overlooked data breach within your business. Here are some simple guidelines for helping create that policy:

 

  1. Organizing and Classifying Confidential Data

Knowing what information in your company is confidential is the first step in protecting it. Classify data by different levels of security so that you can define who has access and who should not.

  1. Establish Accessibility Safeguards

Limit accessibility to certain individuals to your various data sets.  Giving the role of accessibility management also ensures responsibility and accountability if a data breach occurs.

  1. Monitor Access

Knowing when individuals log in and out is key in determining who sees sensitive data and when. This is valuable information when investigating a breach and also helps deter any inappropriate actions, once employees know their access is being monitored.

  1. Installing Password Protected Screensavers

Anyone can quickly view information on an unattended computer screen. Password protected screen savers automatically activate to secure those screens.

  1. Install Privacy Filters on Company Computers

   Blackout privacy filters can prevent shoulder surfing, ensuring data is secure even when  employees are working at their computers.

      6. Train Employees on Using Company Devices Outside the Office

Company phones, laptops and tablets are always vulnerable when employees access confidential company information while on business trips, or even while out to lunch. Keeping these devices protected with privacy filters for portable devices can help protect that information. However, employees should also be instructed on the risks of shoulder surfing, especially in a crowded location. If they need to access confidential information on their device, they should be wary of their surroundings, preferably accessing the information in a more isolated area.

 

 

Use this simple guide to determine the right privacy filter size for any device.  The Perfect Fit Selector Tool.

Find all available devices in this privacy filter device directory.

http://www.visualdatasecurity.eu/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Visual-Data-Security-White-Paper.pdf

Tips for Protecting the College Bound from Identity Theft

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There are many worries we can have when kids are off to college, but identity theft doesn’t occur to us something that we should be concerned about. After all, college kids generally don’t have credit, so why would they become targets?

The fact is, people in their twenties make up 20 percent of all identity theft victims, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Their empty credit history is just what identity thieves are looking for–a blank slate means easy credit approvals!

How Does Identity Theft Occur in College? Five Problem Areas and Solutions

  1. Shared spaces

Dorms can be crowded, shared spaces that rely on the trust of roommates. Even if new roomies can seem like friends, the risk of theft is always there. In addition, a single floor of any dorm can house hundred of students who can easily gain access to dorm rooms when they are vacant. Stolen items are bad enough, but ID information can be copied and put back without a student every knowing his or her privacy has been compromised.

Solution: Use an inexpensive safe or even get a safety deposit box at the bank  for Social Security card, birth certificate and other documents you may need, but don’t need to keep around.

  1. Internet purchases

Everyday purchases online is common to most, but for college students the risk of Wi-Fi hacking on campus is increased as identity thieves tap into unsecure Wi-Fi signals to gain access to online credit card transactions. Identity thieves rely on the stats, which indicate that almost 30 percent of college students ignore their checking account and credit card balances.

Solution: Check credit card statements regularly for fraudulent charges.

  1. Too many credit card applications

Credit card companies know college students need money and immediately begin the direct mail campaigns that offer attractive introductory offers targeting college students. Often recipients will toss these applications unshredded into the trash. In fact 49 percent of today’s college students receive frequent applications for credit cards, and 30 percent of those college students throw the applications away in their original condition – that is, with all the personal information intact.

Solution: Keep a dorm shredder. The best shredders for dorms are compact, powerful and can easily shred credit card applications, stapled and paper clipped documents and even credit cards and DVDs.  See Top Dorm Shredders For College Students.

  1. Taking care of campus documentation

Too often college and university campuses rely on Social Security numbers to identify students. This means that college paperwork, student loan documents and other information provided to and from the college can contain confidential information.

Solution: Shred all unnecessary documents. Even if you are not sure that the paperwork contains confidential information or not, using your dorm shredder to destroy it can take only seconds and leaves you with peace of mind.

  1. Keeping electronic screen info private

Shoulder surfing, the technique of peeking over a shoulder to acquire information off a laptop or tablet becomes even more useful to identity thieves in crowded college libraries and cafeterias. It only takes a minute for passwords, user names and even bank account information to be snapped with a phone and used later.

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Solution: Keep tablets and laptops protected with privacy screens. Blackout privacy screens black out the side view image of the screen from either right or left while leaving the frontal view clear. This allows any student to work on electronic devices in public without worry.

See the best privacy screens for college

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Journal of an Identity Thief

Opportunity Strikes Identity theft isn’t always targeted. It often begins when an opportunity presents itself, like finding an unshredded credit card application that must have blown off of a garbage truck. What does it reveal? A name, an address and a proposed line of credit. american-express-bank-credit-card-wrinkled-paper-flip-book-direct-marketing-326823-adeevee

The Stake Out Now that I know the address, I can watch the house and find out what day they put out their garbage. If they didn’t shred this credit app, they probably have thrown away other unshredded documents that might have value. I wait until nightfall and start diving.

 

100_0836A Small Prize I find an expired car insurance policy. This indicates that they might have recently switched insurance companies. I will come back over the following weeks to keep digging, but for now I can use this.

 

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Gone Phishin’ Their phone number is on the policy. I make a call pretending to be the insurance company and thanking them for renewing their policy. The victim insists there must be some mistake, that the policy was cancelled. I apologize. I validate with their information: name, address, makes and models of cars covered. I know their policy number. I now seem completely legit. To confirm their cancellation I need their social security number….

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Solution

By shredding everything, even documents that seem to contain nothing important, you can avoid becoming an entry in an identity thief’s diary.

130C Auto Feed Shredder

130C Auto Feed Shredder

 

Selecting the right shredder More About Identity Theft  Best Reviewed Shredders

The Hidden Cracks in Workplace Confidential Document Security

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You have buttoned down your IT security, so you think you can breathe easy. But hacking is about strategy, not just technology. Paper-based identity theft remains a threat, even to companies with sophisticated digital defenses. While the focus on digital security grows, identity thieves, and even corporate spies, are finding easy access to neglected physical document security.

Off-site services and security breaches

Off-site shredding services are an easy path for identity thieves. Getting into legitimate off-site shredding companies, thieves can show up at your office and wait for you to hand over your confidential documents.

On-site keeps it confidential

By maintaining on-site shredding you can ensure that private information, stays private. If the convenience of off-site services are still a consideration over security, on-site automatic shredders are the perfect choice. They make on-site security management even easier, allowing hands-free, walk-away shredding a convenience, without compromising confidential information.

Corporate spies with low-tech strategies

Corporate spies will find any possible way to get to key classified documents. If they can’t get this info through digital hacking, they can go low-tech just as easily.

Making shredding procedures a part of your office policy.

What spies are looking for, and what you should shred at the office:

Company Phone Books

Can give a hacker names and numbers of people to target and impersonate.

Organizational charts

Contain information about people who are in positions of authority within the organization.

Memos

Provide small amounts of useful information for creating authentic looking fake memos.

Policy manuals

Show hackers how secure and insecure a company really is.

Calendars

Can tell a corporate spy which employees are out of town at a particular time.

Incidents of off-site shredding security breaches are showing up in the news: Document Shredding Company Employee Eyed in ID Theft Ring…Read More

College ID Theft: How College Students Can Protect Themselves with a Simple Rule.

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College students are five times more likely to be a victim of identity theft than the general public. To protect yourself make sure to use this simple rule: shred it or secure it.

Shred confidential documents right away that are no longer needed, Secure confidential documents that you still need. Here’s why:

The Dorm Room Dilemma

Dorm rooms are accessible by virtually everyone in the building. Identity theft becomes easy when thieves can fish bank account statements, credit card applications and other documents containing highly sensitive information from the wastebasket next to a dorm room desk. Shred these unwanted documents so your trash can doesn’t become a treasure trove for identity thieves.

College students may also be feel very secure in their dorms and not think twice about leaving sensitive documents such as checkbooks and social security cards in unlocked areas. Secure all confidential documents in a locked safe place to prevent identity theft in your absence.

 

Need a dorm room shredder? Here are some options: Dorm Room Shredders

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Small Business & Identity Theft

It seems reasonable to assume that large companies with mountains of customer data  in their possession are the most likely targets for identity theft.  However, new research reveals identity thieves tend to target small businesses more often because their security defenses are weaker and access to information is easier to obtain.

In a recent survey by the Ponemon Institute,  55% of small businesses polled experienced at least one breach of their private records. Thirty-three percent of that 55% did not notify victims that their personal data had been exposed.

The Risks of Outsourcing

At least 85%  of small businesses polled shared customer  and employee records with third party services. Most of the small businesses surveyed also believed this to be the most “at risk” information when it came to identity theft.  Though outsourcing may be essential for many business functions, maintaining as many in-house services as possible can help minimize the risk to customer identity theft.

Shredding and Small Business

Shredders for small office use meet the shredding frequency and run time expectations of small business.  If your business has greater shredding needs, commerical shredders can meet those demands with longer run times and larger capacity bins.

Use the shredder selector to find a shredder that meets your small business needs.

 

Fellowes LogoLook for the Fellowes Logo for quality office products.

Tax Time Solutions for Tax Preparers and Do-It Yourselfers

Tax pros and amateurs face some of the same barriers: handling confidential documents and staying organized throughout the whole taxing process. There are some solutions to make the process easy and safe.

Tax Pros

Even though many returns are submitted electronically, paper documents still play a role in the tax office. Paper based ID theft breaches for the first half of 2012 accounted for nearly 15% of known breaches. As you handle scores of tax returns with social security numbers and bank account numbers, having a consistently performing shredder available ensures the ID security of your clients.  In addition, a commerical paper shredder that is visible  to your clients and in use while you are preparing their taxes gives them a higher level of trust and confidence in you and the practice you run.

Do It Yourselfers

Tax time may also be a purging period of old returns–something id thieves are fully aware of. You make feel your current return is perfectly safe because you filed electronically, but those old returns carry the same confidential information that can fall into the wrong hands when you are disposing of them. A reliable household shredder can make cleaning out your tax records a lot easier. If you do a lot of shredding in your home office, consider a home office shredder for longer run times and shred capacities.

Tax Pros

Helping your clients get their documents done may not be the only way you can help. Consider offering them methods for long-term tax organization. Suggest a Tax Organization Kit.  It can help your clients keep records clearly organized throughout the year for easier processing during tax time–making their life and your job a lot easier.

Do it Yourselfers

Sometimes the worst part of the tax process if you do it yourself is remembering where you put this form or that receipt from eight months ago. A tax organization kit with flip top boxes and color coded reference labels can really help staying organized throughout the year. Without guidance from a tax professional, do- it-yourself organizational help can reduce the stress of the tax time process.