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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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Shredding Scandals!

Let’s be honest, shredding can be a pretty dry subject. Heck, when we’re dealing with paper, dampness is generally considered a bad thing! Bad jokes aside, we understand that there’s only so much you want to hear about the mechanics of shredding paper. So this month, we wanted to take a break from the gears of it all, and instead look at some famous scandals that involved the humble shredder.

 

Enron

Let’s start with an oldie but a goodie – the Enron scandal. Now, Enron got into some trouble back in 2001, achieving the title of ‘biggest audit failure’ and eventually ‘biggest bankruptcy reorganisation’ in American history. But as if their financial issues and debts weren’t enough, in 2002 the FBI raided the failed energy giants headquarters after a tip that employees were undertaking in a mass data destruction session. FBI agents found employees at Enron HQ shredding thousands of sensitive documents in a bid to hide evidence, and further investigation revealed they had been doing this for several months already. To give you some idea, the documents they were shredding included details of the off-balance sheet partnerships which Enron set up to conceal the true level of its debts, which stand at anywhere between $30bn and $40bn. Unsurprisingly, this added fuel to the fire and more charges to the list for Enron’s owners, and restraining orders had to be filed to prevent any more shredding taking place.

 

The Iran-Contra Affair

This was another fairly high profile case from The States that involved people desperately trying to shred incriminating documents. The Iran-Contra affair happened during the Reagan administration, when it was discovered that senior administration officials secretly facilitated the sale of arms to Iran (which was subject to an arms embargo at the time). Obviously, not great from any angle. What started as an effort to free 7 American hostages being held in Lebanon spiralled into a nightmare for the 12 senior administration officials who were charged over the ongoing incident. Two of those, Fawn Hall and Johnathan Scott Royster, were responsible for the destruction of the incriminating documents, and were given immunity from prosecution in exchange for their testimony.

 

Metropolitan Police

Let’s end with the most recent one. Earlier this month, an inquiry was started into allegations that the Metropolitan Police have been shredding documentation they weren’t supposed to. This was after a public inquiry into undercover policing was announced in March 2015, and officers have since been accused of destroying documentation that related directly to this active inquiry. It’s a bit of a web of inquiries to be honest! What is clear is that the IPCC stated that the documents should not have been destroyed ‘without express permission.’ In fact, their spokeswoman Sarah Green added that “While the evidence indicates that a large number of documents were shredded over a period of days in May 2014, the difficult task ahead for our investigators is to determine what the documentation was, why it was destroyed, whether electronic copies were kept and who may have ordered its destruction.” At the moment this strange double enquiry is still in its early days, so we don’t really know what will be uncovered yet, besides a pile of shredded paper!

 

At Hungry Shredder, we won’t help you destroy data as part of a scandal, but we will help you keep on top of things so that you don’t end up on the receiving end of a law suit under the Data Protection Act. Our shredding services offer both delivery of sacks and the option of collecting from you, so you don’t have any excuse not to shred that sensitive documentation. For more information, get in touch with us today.

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Is Shredding In Danger?

If you’re a fan of social media, you might have noticed a video doing the rounds recently that featured a product that claimed to be ‘better and more secure than shredding’ for document destruction. Naturally, we couldn’t just let this slide under or radar, so today we’ll be talking about this new invention and how secure it really is.

What Is It?

There have been a couple of different brands of these devices going around, but we’re going to focus on the ‘Roller Stamps Messy Code’. You can find this on a couple of different websites for around the £20 mark, and it comes in the form of a simple rubber stamp with an ink roller. This roller uses dense patterns to ‘permanently block out’ sensitive information from paper, allowing you to just throw the paper into the recycling bin. This particular model boasts ‘oil based ink’ that penetrates non-glossy paper, so that information can’t be read from the back either. However, it can’t be used on glossy paper as the ink will simply ‘rub off’. The ink will last for ‘160 feet’ and cartridges can be bought separately. Needless to say, we have a few reasons why this seemingly ‘miraculous’ little gadget might not be the time saver it’s made out to be.

Expensive

Let’s start with the obvious one – this stamp is a much more expensive option than buying a shredder. Depending on your budget, you can buy shredders for as little as £10, and for that investment you will get years of use with no need to buy new parts. With the roller stamp however, you are not only making an investment in the device, but committing to the ongoing cost of buying ink, which in this case costs exactly the same amount as the device does. But not only is it a more expensive options long term, it’s also a big time investment. Using this device, you would need to go through all pages of your documents and find which bits of information need to be covered up. This takes a lot longer than simply feeding the document through the shredder in one go.

Potentially Breakable

We don’t mean that it could be broken physically (although it would be easy to stand on and destroy), but we actually mean that the method could be broken and reveal that personal information you are trying to hide. If you’ve ever seen an episode of CSI, you’ve probably seen some of the techniques they use to read text that’s been erased or indentations left in notepads. Well many of the techniques they use are actually real and can be done by anyone with a little bit of investment. Because the information is just being covered up and not destroyed completely, it is perfectly possible for a criminal to read the text underneath all of that oil based ink. All they need to do is take a series of images of the page under different light sources, at different frequencies. The fluorescent properties of the different lights will cause certain ink types to shine on the page, so it’s just a case of finding the right light frequency. Plus, if the document has been printed with a toner based printer, a small amount of water would like the oil based ink of the stamp and leave the toner intact beneath. Of course, this might seem farfetched, but for criminals who make their living from identity theft, it’s not outside the realms of possibility. This is not a problem you would encounter with a shredded document.

Less Secure

Let’s be honest, all you are doing with this device is covering up your data; you are not destroying it or making it inaccessible, just throwing another layer of ink over it. This is nowhere near as secure as breaking the page, and the data, up into tiny pieces of paper. By shredding your documents, you are ensuring that all of the data on those pages can never be read, simply because it doesn’t exist anymore. There is nothing more secure than that!

 

So no, shredding is not in danger in any way. While devices like this might appeal to some, the vast majority of people understand that when it comes to their sensitive data, you can never be too careful. At Hungry Shredder, we make confidential waste disposal a breeze with our simple and secure document shredding service. To find out more about how we can help you keep your data safe, or book your own curiour collection shredding sack, visit our website or get in touch with our team today.

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Top 5 Business Scams Of 2017 So Far

Every year, new and inventive scams are designed by criminals to steal your data. For a long time, such scams were mainly aimed at individuals, but now the biggest targets for scams and fraud are small businesses. Because small businesses usually don’t have the infrastructure and policies in place to properly protect their physical and digital data, it makes them easy pickings for identity thieves and fraudsters who want to make a quick buck. So what are the biggest business scams of 2017, and how can you recognise them?

Directory Scams

Owners of small businesses are well aware of the flood of calls you will get from online and physical directories, looking to get you listing your business in their directories and ‘boosting your sales’. But while these free directory services might sound great to a budget conscious start-up, many of them are actually scams, and can result in you spending a lot of money or having your data sold on.

Tech Support Scams

Tech support scams are also a very common problem, both for individuals and business owners. Criminals will pose as tech support personnel and request access to your computer systems to ‘fix an issue’. While this might sound ludicrous and obviously a scam, these people prey on the less digitally savvy. They threaten legal action if they don’t allow access to their computers, plant viruses to back up their fraudulent claims and repeatedly harass people they see as good marks. Make sure your employees never give control of their computer to anyone who calls from outside the company offering to fix something.

Government Imitation Scams

There have been a lot of these going around recently, and impersonating the government seems to have become all the rage. Scams are flooding the market from various ‘official government departments’ – from people impersonating the DVLA trying to make money through fake speeding fines, to aggressive campaigns against business owners threatening legal action due to complaints about their practices. These messages can be scary – and that’s the point. But remember, these departments will never contact you by email, never threaten you in this way (they have other agencies to do that) and will always be in touch via letters several times before a ‘final notice’ is issued.

Cheque Scams

These scams are a little bit rarer in the UK, but they are becoming more and more common. They started in the US, where criminals would send business owners something that looks like a bill, invoice, account statement or rebate cheque from something you have bought. The criminals will research and target your business to make this look genuine, and increase the likelihood of your cashing the cheque. Make sure you read everything – including the fine print – carefully. Companies that cash these cheques may unwittingly be agreeing to be billed monthly for products or services you don’t need and may not even receive. Once you’re in, getting out of these contracts can be a nightmare; and it can cost you a lot of money in the process.

Ransomware

Back in the cyber world, new ransomware strains have been hitting the business world hard. Whether the more traditional model of holding your files hostage, or the more modern version that threatens to publish all of your files to the internet. Unprotected small businesses are falling prey to ransomware at a fast rate this year, so make sure you systems are protected.

 

But the biggest thing to remember, even with those digital based scams, is that criminals are looking for all of your printed personal data. Whether that’s in the form of bank statements, purchase orders, invoices, client information sheets or even meeting notes written on a scrap of paper – it’s all gold for the dedicated criminal. So keep it safe, and partner up with a dedicated shredding company like us who can help you keep your business data safe for years to come. For more information, get in touch with our team today.

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Beware The Human Being – How Lack Of Procedures Can Risk Your Business

Over the past few years there has been a lot of focus out there on digital security. Shoring up your defences so that the increasing waves of cyber hackers can’t get in and steal your data from under your nose. While this is an incredibly important thing to do (with smaller and medium sized businesses being targeted most in the last 12 months), you should never forget the primary threat to your business security will remain the same. It has been since businesses first began and will continue to be long into the future. And that threat is people.

 

Why People Are A Risk To Your Business

 

It might seem odd, saying that people are the biggest threat to your business, but the simple fact is that human beings are prone to making mistakes. They forget instructions, fall for phishing scams and intentionally damage or spread data to cause havoc. In terms of IT issues, 37% of breaches and internal issues are the result of user error, with phishing and malware coming a close second at 25%. In 2015, 102 of the data breach incidents in London were due to loss or theft of paperwork. People are ultimately fallible, which makes it easy for thieves to exploit them. Catch an employee after they’ve had a fight with someone they care about or when they are over tired, and they can make all sorts of mistakes with your data. But, if you put processes in place and educate your employees to follow them, you will likely see a reduction in the number of incidents.

 

How Can I Protect My Data?

 

Now, we’re not saying you should fire everyone in your business – that would be madness! But what you do need to do is take the time to implement some policies and procedures that help people understand what they need to do. This is particularly important when it comes to confidential paperwork, because it’s not always easy for people to figure out what counts as confidential and what doesn’t. This is often why people throw away sensitive data – because they didn’t realise it was sensitive. So, to make sure your office stays secure, you should:

 

Write Your Policies. Before you start jumping up and down on people, take the time to figure out what policies you need in place to protect your critical data. Rules around storage and destruction should be at the top of that list. How will your documents be stored securely while they are with you, and when they are finished with, how will they be disposed of safely? Make sure you write all of these policies down and they don’t just stay in your head!

 

Train Your Employees. Make sure all of your employees are aware of these policies. Hold a training session and ensure everyone signs a training document, pledging to uphold these rules. But don’t just tell them what the rules are and leave it at that – go into detail and explain why the rules are being put into place and how following them will help.

  

Publish Guidelines. Once you have trained everyone on the new policies, publish some quick-access guidelines in prominent places, such as by printers or over bins. Include a checklist of things that would be on a confidential document, such as names, addresses, bank details, invoice numbers etc. By giving your employees a guide of what they can and can’t throw away, you reduce the risk of confidential data ending up in landfill.

 

Hire Partners. Now that you have a procedure in place, you need a way to manage it. For documents that don’t contain sensitive information, they simply end up in your normal recycling or bin. But for confidential documents, you need a plan to deal with them. Hire a local shredding company to take care of your documentation in a safe and secure manner. Secure shredding companies like us specialise in the collection and destruction of confidential paperwork from your office, so all you need to do is book a collection slot. We will provide you with shredding sacks, collect your paperwork and take it to our facility to be shredded. Once that is completed you will be given a certificate of destruction as proof that you have upheld your obligations under the Data Protection Act.

 

For more information about secure shredding, or to book your own regular collection slot, get in touch with us today and one of our experts will get back to you.

 

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3 Bits Of Confidential Data You’re Just Giving Away

Most of us like to think we’re very careful with our personal data. A lot of us now have a small personal shredder at home, so that we can get rid of our bank statements and bills properly. Or even better, we do everything online to avoid the paper trail altogether. For the most part, this is a great start to keeping your data safe – but there is still room for improvement. At Hungry Shredder, we find there are 3 key things people do that put their personal data in danger – usually without realising it.

  

Bank Details

 

Ok, so most people know not to throw away bank statements, but what do you do with the letters the bank sends you? You know, the ones about the new credit card you could get or their change in interest rates. They don’t have anything confidential on them, right? Wrong. These documents have your name and address on them. Ok, what’s the harm? That’s freely available information. And while that’s true, what that document gives criminals is enough information to impersonate you. With that letter, they know your name and address, which bank you are with and even a rough idea of your credit rating. With this, they can call your bank, pretend to be you and take out that credit card or loan in your name. So no matter what the purpose of the letter, or if it looks like it’s harmless, make sure you destroy it properly.

  

Digital Data

 

When people think of data security, they think of securing their networks to prevent breaches, or of destroying their paperwork. But the thing a lot of people miss is the third step – destroying your digital data once it’s host becomes obsolete. You see, even if you delete a file from your computer, it’s never really gone. Instead it’s nestled deep inside your hard drive memory, just waiting to be retrieved with a piece of inexpensive software. So when you upgrade your computer, or replace it because it’s died, all of that information is still there. Every file you’ve ever saved, every password you’ve ever entered and every piece of information you’ve ever put in, all saved on your hard drive. By throwing this away or selling it on, you’re giving away a lot of highly sensitive digital data. Students from MIT conducted an experiment on 130 ‘formatted, wiped clean’ computers they bought on e-bay, and by using a simple piece of freely available software were able to retrieve over 60 credit card numbers, along with health records, bank statements and other private documents. So instead of recycling or selling old hard drivers, don’t take the risk, shred it.

 

Social Media

 

This is where things start to get a little scary. Social media has opened up the world, connecting people from all corners of the globe and encouraging them to communicate. For many people, it has also become a platform to complain on. While this might seem harmless and even cathartic, people can give away a lot of personal information without meaning to when they are angry. Information such as where they bank, where they shop, places they go regularly (and therefore will be out of the house), how long they have been a customer/account holder. They can also reveal personal information that could well be the answers to security questions on their accounts – such as what their favourite pet was as a child of their first car. All of this incidental information is gold to both cyber and real world criminals, who use it to build up a picture of the victim before they launch their attack. Unfortunately, there is no real way to prevent this. All you can do is be careful about what you reveal online, and to who.

 

At Hungry Shredder, we are specialists in destroying sensitive data, whether it be on paper or a hard drive. Our courier collection and drop-off services make it quick and easy for you to dispose of your confidential data safely, and our certificate of destruction service provides proof that your information is completely destroyed. For more information, or to order your shredding sacks, get in touch with us today.

 

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An Organised Office Is A Happy Office – Managing The Annual Clear Out

A while ago we talked about the fact that clean desks make a happier office. How they boost productivity, encourage teamwork and improve morale. Now imagine all those benefits, but spread out across the entire office. If clean desks can make your office worker happy, then providing them with a wider office space that is clean and organised can have numerous benefits, both for your employees and your business. De-cluttering and organising your office can make it easier for you to find things, provide clean audit trails for paperwork and remove the risk of data theft. This month, we bring you a quick guide to managing your office clear out, with some tips to keep your office organised going forward.

Block Out Some Time & Set Up

 

Clearing out a cluttered, disorganised office takes time. It’s not the sort of thing you can do in pieces across the week, because everything will just start getting cluttered again as you go on. So, if you are committed to organising your office, block out some time to get it done. If you work in an office with other people, a weekend or evening is ideal, as there won’t be a lot of people around to disturb you. Now get yourself set up. The ideal way to organise is to completely empty your office space, as it’s much easier to control the flow of what goes back in where when the room is empty. However, for many people that’s just not practical, so instead choose which area you will focus on first and how you will move around the room. Get yourself some heavy-duty bin bags and dive in.

Sort

 

It’s amazing the sorts of odd things you find in an office when you really look. Balls of string (when you can’t fathom why you’d need one), forgotten boxes of stationary, piles of paperwork that’s long out of date, even old food containers and piles of receipts. As you’re going through, sort everything into piles. We find ‘keep’ and ‘bin’ to be quite effective, but you might want to be more specific and have a pile for stationary, one for paperwork to keep and one for paperwork to shred, for example. Once you’ve worked through the section and put everything in piles, you can clean the area and start to put things back in a logical order, or place them in another section of the office if that’s where they belong. Repeat this process around your entire office, and you will end up with a cleaner, tidier office and a large pile of things to dispose of. If it’s normal office rubbish, you can throw this away and forget about it. For the paperwork, make sure it is all in a sack and call your local secure shredding facility to help you dispose of it safely.

 

Install A Shredding Bin

 

Believe it or not, this one small change will have a big impact on how tidy and secure your office remains once you’ve cleared it out. All you need is a simple bin lined with one of our shredding sacks, and a sign. This enables you to have a dedicated place for employees to dispose of confidential paperwork, separate from the oh so inviting lure of the recycling bin. You can arrange to have your sack collected and emptied as often as you need to, and Hungry Shredder will take away the full sack to be shredded in one of our secure shredding faculties. The resulting scraps are then sent for recycling, so you are not only holding up your data security obligations, but your environmental ones too.

 

Buy Some Supplies

 

The biggest mistake a lot of people make is going out and buying a load of new organisational supplies, and then finding that the solutions don’t work when they’ve actually tidied up their workspace. Buying supplies before you’ve established what you have to keep and where it needs to live is just asking for more clutter and confusion. So, it’s the last thing you should do. Once you’ve de-cluttered and cleaned, lay out everything you know you need to keep in piles. Put away anything that already has a home or a system, and then decide what you need based on what you have left. If you have a lot of documentation, maybe look into buying a filing cabinet or investing in a digital document management solution. If you find yourself with a lot of letters – and in-tray. By buying only the supplies you know you need, you save yourself space, money and a lot of aggravation.

 

It might sound simple, but organising your office can make a huge difference not only to the performance of your employees, but to the way your office operates as well. Slick, organised offices tend to have less trouble with paperwork and audits, less friction between employees and a healthier atmosphere for everyone who visits. At Hungry Shredder, we specialise in helping you manage your paper waste, keeping your office secure and free of rubbish. For more information, get in touch with our team today for your free consultation.

 

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Recycling Your IT – What, Why And How?

We talk a lot about the benefits of shredding and recycling your documentation. It’s secure, environmentally friendly and a great way to keep up with green initiatives. But have you ever thought about what happens to your computer and IT equipment when you no longer need it? When you just throw it away, it ends up in a landfill site or incinerator, adding to the 3,140,000 tons of e-waste we produce each year. But just because you have no use for a computer anymore, doesn’t mean it can’t be useful to someone else. Not to mention the security risks that come with throwing away hard drives full of personal, confidential information. So how does recycling your IT help protect your business and the environment?

Why Recycle IT Equipment?

 

Think about how much information is stored on your hard drive. Every file you’ve ever saved, every search you’ve ever made and every password you’ve ever typed. Even your deleted files are still there, buried deep in the memory banks of your computer. If you just threw all of that away, you could be putting it straight in the hands of criminals, who will use it to defraud your business, steal from you or even impersonate you and your company. Recycling your computer equipment starts with destroying it – breaking it down into pieces so small that they cannot be reassembled, so you can be sure that your data is safe.

It’s also a way your business can contribute to a cleaner environment. Computer equipment recycling and refurbishing is an important part of an organisation’s sustainable waste strategy. Businesses are encouraged to dispose of their IT equipment in an environmentally responsible way – in other words, recycling. There are even governmental regulations in place to deal with hazardous electronics (think the WEEE directive) and multiple ways of disposing of other electronics safely. These can then be reused and turned into new equipment, replacing the need for even more natural resources.

 How Is IT Equipment Recycled?

 

Fortunately, IT equipment is relatively easy to recycle, if slightly time consuming. When full machines like laptops, servers or PC’s are sent for recycling, they are first picked apart and stripped of all the useful whole components, like motherboards and microchips. One everything has been salvaged, the rest of the machine can then be fed through an industrial grade shredder, like ours. The resulting shreds are a mixture of materials, and these are sent to a recycling plant, who separate them out using large magnets and other sorting devices. This way the plastics can all be sent to be melted and repurposed, the metals can be sorted and sent away and the glass can be broken down and melted to make new glass.

If you don’t have a full machine to recycle, but instead a hard drive to destroy, we can help you there. Many people choose to sell on their old computers for parts, removing the hard drives first so they aren’t giving away any data. This approach is great for data security, but essentially leaves you with a hunk of metal and no use for it. If this happens, you can bring the hard drive to our secure shredding facilities, to be shredded and recycled into new computer parts.

What Can Be Recycled?

 

The good news is – almost anything. Most parts of a basic computer set up and IT system can be recycled, from monitors and PCs to servers and laptops. Even peripherals such as printers, scanners, telephones, mice, keyboards and hard drives.  Some types of computing equipment will need particular expertise to recycle, like PCs, which tend to have a lot of heavy metal in their circuitry. From these elements, recycling teams can salvage plastic, ferrous metals, non-ferrous metals, electronic boards, glass and even gold.

Of course, you may not need to recycle your IT systems that often, so you may not know exactly what you need to do, or who you need to talk to. For more information on shredding and recycling your computer and IT equipment, or advice on what to do next, get in touch with us today.

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Keeping The Data Elves Happy This Christmas

Tis the season to be jolly, to shop and to eat, to make friends and reconnect with old ones. It’s also the time that Santa and his crew are busy buying and wrapping presents for all the mums, dads, brothers, sisters and friends out there. But did you know that Santa has a secret squad, known only as the Data Elves, who spend the months leading up to Christmas whizzing around trying to make sure your personal data stays safe every time you type it into a shopping site? Well, this year the Data Elves contacted us directly, as they have some tips to help your data stay safe and keep them happy this year.

 

Be Careful With Your Receipts

November and December are what we like to call the ‘month of the killer receipts’. That’s because even if you don’t usually keep your receipts, Christmas causes people to hoard them. We want to make sure we have the receipt to take our Christmas lights back if they are faulty, and we squirrel away receipts for gifts just in case the gift isn’t wanted, or turns out to be a duplicate. But while the Data Elves say that it’s a good idea to keep these receipts, your wallet might not be the best place for them. With all the flurry of Christmas shopping and constant opening and closing, receipts can easily fall out of your wallet and find their way into someone else’s hands. A receipt might not seem like much, but it contains a lot of information about you that can be used for criminal activities, including defrauding stores into giving fake refunds. Store your receipts somewhere safe at home – like a small lockbox or a file, and make sure you shred them when the warranty has run out or the gift has proven a hit.

 

Stay Vigilant Online

Every year, the number of people doing their shopping online goes up, and this year is no exception. In fact, only 10% of people say they don’t do any of their shopping online at Christmas. With mobiles forming 80% of internet searches, online shopping has never been so easy. Needless to say, this is fairly common knowledge, and cyber criminals will use this information to their advantage. Try to avoid shopping online in public places this Christmas – most public Wi-Fi hotspots don’t encrypt their data, making it simple for criminals to pluck your information from the coffee shop next door. You should also be extra vigilant about what links you visit too. The Data Elves have discovered that many URL’s are shrunk to fit mobiles, which is great for usability, but not so much for security. It’s much harder to tell that a URL is fake when it has been shortened to a bit.ly link, because you can’t look out for the obvious clues like misspellings or odd domains. And because mobile devices don’t have the robust anti-virus software computers do, they are much more susceptible to malware infections and viruses. If you’re ever in doubt, type in the full link to where you want to go in your search bar and go there manually. It might take a little more time, but it’s worth it to save your device from infection.

 

Don’t Click On The Links!

As we have already mentioned, the Data Elves have noticed that more and more people are shopping online this Christmas, and that means millions of order confirmations are being sent to inboxes across the UK. But let us ask you this – do you know exactly what you’ve ordered, from where? It’s a busy time of year all round, and that means people are less guarded when it comes to emails like this. So scammers are capitalising on this by creating fake emails based around internet ordering. These will often say that there has been a problem with your order, or your payment was declined, providing you with a link to click on and re-enter your information. At passing glance to a busy person this will seem credible, when in reality they have just handed their credit card numbers and address to a criminal. Make sure you are extra careful when clicking in links in emails this month. If you receive an email like this, the Data Elves recommend not clicking on the link, but instead going to your web browser and visiting what you know to be the genuine site. If nothing is amiss with your order there, report the email to their fraud team and delete it.

 

Christmas is a time for happiness and joy and no one wants that to be ruined by a huge credit card bill turning up – especially when you didn’t spend the money. So make sure you take some basic steps to stay safe this Christmas, make sure the Data Elves stay happy and your data stays safe where it belongs. For more information about keeping your data safe, or to order some shredding sacks to destroy your personal information, get in touch today.

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What Information Do Identity Thieves Crave?

For most of us, identity theft is one of those awful things that we hope will never happen to us. We hear stories about it all the time, but we think ‘it won’t ever happen to me’. And it probably won’t, until it does. The problem is that there is so much information out there that it can be difficult to figure out what it worth protecting and what can safely be thrown in the bin. So we wanted to show you just some of the information that identity thieves are looking for – and some of it might not be what you think.

Your Hobbies, Club Memberships Or Employer 

Let’s start off with an unusual one. Most people aren’t quite as careful about protecting their gym membership as they are their more private data, but this can be a key piece of information for any identity thief just starting their hunt. By finding out what organisations you belong to, places you go to do your hobbies or the name of your employer, a thief can use this to impersonate you when speaking to the organisations to gain more information. Worse still, they could employ it in various phishing scams, impersonating the club, organisation and employer. The basic idea behind this is that people are much more likely to respond to a phone call or email scam when they appear to be from the group they belong to. This data is an easy target for them, as we rarely protect these details as well as we should.

Your Bank

At this stage, the thief isn’t looking for specifics, they just want to know where you hold your financial accounts. This is for a similar reason to the above – to leverage this information when pretexting (pretending to be you) or phishing. The thieves will often study how your financial institution communicate with its customers in order to make their scam appear more genuine. In general, be incredibly wary of ANY email that asks you to provide additional information, even if it looks real. Genuine banks will never ask you to type you card details, even in part. Always play it safe by visiting a branch or calling their helpline, as they will quickly be able to tell you if there is a genuine problem.

Your Passport Number

A simple passport number, when combined with an illegal database can provide thieves with a wealth of information on you. Your passport number can reveal your full name, date of birth, place of birth, nationality and more. All gold to a data thief looking to steal your identity. If your physical passport is stolen, the consequences mount up quickly, with the thieves able to open up accounts internationally and a lot of complex problems for you to deal with. The sad thing is, many people still just throw away old passports, meaning thieves just need to sift through some rubbish to get their hands on a goldmine of information.

Your Address

While physical addresses are rarely used as a medium for phishing scams anymore, there is still the risk of receiving ‘bait mail’ through the post. There is not much you can do about this, except be savvy and shred any junk you do receive. What is far more sinister is that your physical address coupled with, say your full name and date of birth gives a thief the ability to initiate a change of address with your providers, effectively rerouting all of your post (and the information within) to a location of your choice. They could of course simply visit your home to steal post, rubbish or information directly from you.

How Do You Protect Your Data?

While all of that sounds very scary (believe me, we have nightmares about it!) it is relatively easy to prevent. You simply need to be cautious about what information you give out, and make sure you aren’t throwing personal information in the bin. Instead of just chucking junk mail in the bin, make sure every piece goes through a shredder, so no one can get their hands on your address. If you don’t have a shredder, get in touch with us and we can provide you with convenient shredding sacks. All you need to do is put all your sensitive information into it, and we will shred it for you in a secure location. For more information or to arrange your own shredding sacks, get in touch with us today.