Running a business can be hectic. There are so many things to take care of in any given period and a paper trail of each task to prove it. It’s not surprising that many businesses find themselves drowning in a pile of documents even in this digital age where most records are electronic.
Getting rid of documents isn’t as easy as dumping them in the dumpster round the back of your building. The threat of identity theft and corporate espionage is very real. Proper disposal of documents is absolutely necessary for the protection of the business, your employees, suppliers, clients and other stakeholders.
Before you shred
It can be tempting to get in touch with a document shredding company and hand over all that junk and just get it over and done with. However, there are regulations guiding the storage of documents and after how long they can be destroyed.
For example documents such as actuarial reports and articles of incorporation shouldn’t be destroyed. They should be kept permanently. Records such as personnel files and tax withholding certificates ought to be stored for at least seven years. Purchase orders, receiving sheets and purchase receipts can be destroyed after a year.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is responsible for providing guidance on what documents to keep and for how long, and how to destroy them. Design your archiving and paper destruction policies based on these guidelines.
Documents you should shred
The following are papers that should be destroyed by paper shredding services to avoid identity theft and the leakage of other sensitive information.
You should shred any paper containing:
- Financial information
This includes bank statements, credit card information, budgets, accounts, internal financial reports, receipts, invoices, purchase order, voided checks and more. The information on these documents can be used to gain access to accounts.
- Personnel information
This includes anything that has dates of birth, names, telephone numbers, driver’s license numbers, addresses and social security numbers. They may include performance assessments, payroll information, résumés, disciplinary reports, medical records, job applications, treatment programs and other human resource data. 2
- Company operational procedures
These include procedural manuals, training manuals, contracts, health and safety guidelines and appraisals. These contain guidelines on how your organization operates. This type of information can be volatile in the wrong hands.
- Strategic data
These are papers that guide the company in its quest for success. They include budgets, strategic reports, strategic reports, contracts, market analyses, drafts, proposals and correspondence.
- Junk mail
Many people don’t realize just how dangerous junk mail can be. The bar code included in this type of marketing material often includes personal identifying data. This information can be used by hackers and cooperate spies to access accounts and other parts of your business.
Shred it all
It is good practice for a business to shred any and all papers it produces. Adopting this policy reduces the risk of sensitive data leaking out. Discuss your needs with a reliable document shredding company to determine the best options for your organization.