Every business collects and maintains sensitive information. For most business owners it is obvious that it should be properly stored and then destroyed. However, many owners still haven’t taken the proactive step of starting a document shredding program. When no attention is paid to the destruction of documents, employees will take the easiest path and just drop them in the trash can. For those owners, there are some serious consequences for their inattention.
Here are ten reasons every business should have a document shredding program.
- To protect your employees. Every employee file holds very private information. The obvious ones are names, addresses and social security numbers. There is also a treasure trove of data that can be used to commit identity theft like bank account numbers and emergency contacts. The health insurance forms also provide information your employees wouldn’t like to share with the world.
- It is the law. To stem the tide of identity theft, federal and state governments have enacted laws that require shredding. The most far reaching is the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act of 2004 (FACTA). It mandates shredding and imposes stiff fines on companies that do not. The easiest way to prove legal compliance is with a “certificate of destruction” that a shredding service provides.
- Loss of trade secrets. The Industrial Espionage Act of 1996 only allows companies to seek damages from spying when trade secrets were treated with care. If the information is allowed to be thrown in the trash it is no longer covered by the law. If you have trade secrets then you better be shredding.
- To protect your customers. This has two meanings for your business. If you let customer lists be thrown out then they are no longer a trade secret and can be freely taken when employees leave. You also don’t want to explain to your best customers how you failed to protect their information and allowed them to become the victims of identity theft.
- Disgruntled employees. As employees leave you don’t want them to legally take your customer lists to your competition. You will want the legal protection of the Espionage Act. You also need to be aware that if you shred in house you are at risk that they will fail to perform the work properly. Or even worse, intentionally not shred and then save documents to extort you or discredit the business.
- Freegans. Many people think that once the trash is taken out it is dumped in the ground never to be seen again. However, trash is considered public domain by the Supreme Court (California V Greenwood). There are many people who routinely go through your dumpster. These might be identity theft rings but it is also people just looking for boxes or freegans.
- The five o’clock news. When sensitive information is found the first people that get called is the local news. It is an easy story to show up with cameras and start asking you embarrassing questions. They also like to interview your customers and ask them if they knew you didn’t protect their information.
- The Attorney General. After the news is called the police are the next on the list. Some Attorney Generals have found that this is an easy source of revenue for their department. In Texas , million dollar fines are not uncommon. As the settlements grow more states are sure to follow suit.
- It is the green thing to do. If you have a document shredding service then they will not only shred all your information but they will recycle it. You can tout your reduced environmental impact to your customers. Some companies can even reduce trash hauling costs.
- To save money. The biggest savings of a document destruction program is not paying the fines. Using a shredding service can also save your business money. You don’t have the capital costs of a shredder and its yearly maintenance. A service also has industrial shredders that can shred everything you generate in minutes instead of the hours or days you would need to pay your employees for the job.