Following The Paper Trail – Why You Should Never Bin Paper

Do you ever wonder what happens to that piece of paper? You know the one – the meeting agenda from last week listing your colleague’s names and plans. The invoice that’s been settled or written off. That report from a client about their campaign progress, containing information that is important to their business. Odds are it ended up with a lot of other paper – in the recycling bin. Now it’s no bad things that recycling has become so ingrained in our minds that we don’t even think about it anymore. It’s great for the environment and stops us burning fuel and using up resources creating new things; we love recycling! But in terms of security, it’s the worst option you can take.


The Lifecycle Of A Recycled Document

When most people think of recycling, they only think of the beginning and the end of the cycle. You throw your paper in the recycling bin, and you pick up your recycled paper products from the shops. But in fact, there are several more stages in the process, and it’s here that your documents could be put at risk. A document that has been thrown in a desk bin or a general recycling bin has nearly 50% more ‘touch points’ than one that goes through a secure destruction cycle. That means there are 50% more opportunities for your documents to go astray, get lost or be picked up by fraudsters.


If you are lucky your document will just end up being dumped into a landfill, where it will be buried under thousands of tons of other rubbish, never to be seen again. But you can’t count on that. In fact, a group of fans once excavated and trawled through a landfill in search of Atari games that were buried in a landfill in Mexico. Before their excavation they had to dig down until they found the right rubbish for the time period, and only then could they start digging up the whole section of landfill. One of the things they used to determine the time period of the rubbish was unshredded documents featuring dates. Luckily they weren’t interested in the information on those papers, just the date, but criminals aren’t looking for a time period, they’re looking for data.


But, if you’re unlucky, your documents can be searched through by any number of people along the recycling process, and it’s all too easy to just pick out a few pieces of paper. Those documents are then used or sold on the information black market, where they can be bought and used to create false identities for fraud, applying for credit cards or setting up insider trading. No matter how long that document was in your possession, it is your responsibility up until the moment it is destroyed, and if it falls into the hands of criminals, you are responsible for how that data is used.


Consequences Of Recycling Instead Of Shredding

Think about this. How would you explain to a distraught employee that their identity was stolen because you thought throwing a piece of paper with their information on it in the recycling bin was acceptable?  How would you approach a client and sheepishly admit that the reason their top competitor picked up on their imminent deal because you didn’t think a fraudster would get hold of the meeting notes about it when you threw them away?  It seems unlikely, but the simple fact is that recycling is not a secure way to dispose of sensitive information, and it’s often an information goldmine for fraudsters and criminals looking to use it or sell it on. If this happens to you, the reputational damage with staff and clients are the least of your worries. You could also be incredibly heavy facing fines for the business and the person responsible for the data breach, and the responsible person could also face a jail sentence.


Are you willing to put yourself, your employees, your clients and your suppliers at risk of theft and fraud for the sake of saving a bit of money? Most businesses aren’t, and instating a document disposal programme is actually a simple process. Your secure shred partner can provide you with a document sack to store your confidential documents in until they are collected, so your main concern should be to train your employees to separate confidential papers into the sack, and all other paper into recycling. If you aren’t sure if the document is confidential or not, shred it. It’s far better to be a little cautious than to explain to the government why a security breach happened. If you need some help getting started with confidential shredding, or want some free advice, get in touch today.

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