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Fraud prevention advice from Shred-IT

Shred-It UK : 10 November, 2009  (Technical Article)
Shred-it contributes to International Fraud Awareness week with a set of steps that companies should take to avoid becoming the victims of fraud
With International Fraud Awareness Week (8-14 November 2009) now underway, Shred-it, a UK on site document destruction company, has warned companies and their employees to take extra care to protect themselves against the impact of fraud as the financial crisis continues to bite.

According to the McKinsey Global Survey 2009, company executives believe that privacy and data security is one of the issues most likely to affect shareholder value. Indeed, nearly nine out of ten (88 per cent) of those questioned stated an intention to maintain or increase their level of focus on privacy and data security within their businesses.

The findings of a separate independent study commissioned by Fellowes and the National Fraud Authority in October revealed that one third of small and medium-sized businesses in the UK have been impacted by fraud, while only three per cent of British consumers now believe the private and public sector organisations they deal with handle their personal data responsibly.

Robert Guice, Executive Vice President of Shred-it, said: "Our own experience shows that a disturbingly high proportion of companies have no clear policy for handling and destroying confidential information, with common practice in many offices being for employees to simply throw sensitive documents into the wastepaper basket or recycling. This is all the more concerning at a time when Government figures estimate that identity fraud is costing the UK economy more than £1 billion every year - money which the UK can hardly afford to be throwing down the drain at a time when the national debt is spiralling."

The Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) has estimated that the average cost of a data breach to a UK business employing less than 250 staff now sits somewhere between £10,000 and £20,000. When incidents become known about externally, the survey revealed damage to reputation could cost large businesses between £30,000 and £250,000.

Robert Guice continued: "Companies across the UK are now going through the process of budget planning for 2010 and with a return to sustained growth still far from certain, the issue of cost-cutting is high on the agenda."

"Harnessing cost savings should not however be the deciding factor when it comes to the issue of minimising the risk of confidential data falling into the wrong hands. The savings achieved by neglecting to invest in a secure end to end process for destroying confidential information could quickly be outweighed by the costs associated with a data breach."

"Our message to British businesses is clear. Action is required by managers and owners to turn fraud awareness into an effective barrier capable of preventing fraudulent activity blighting the recovery of UK plc."

Shred-it offers the following guidance to companies and employees to protect themselves and their customers against fraud:

* Ensure that all employees clearly understand which types of information must be regarded as confidential and the consequences to the business of a data breach taking place.
* Only collect essential data from customers and ensure that customers give their explicit consent for this data to be collected.
* Limit access to confidential data by handling this information on a 'need to know' basis and keeping a record of which individuals have access to confidential information.
* Ensure that all confidential data stored on networks, laptops and remote access devices is fully encrypted.
* Ensure that all new employees, dealing with confidential information, are subjected to Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks before they are appointed.
* Consider fitting locks, alarms and CCTV cameras where appropriate in areas where confidential information is stored.
* Develop document management systems so that you know exactly where confidential information is being stored and shred this information when the time to dispose of it arrives.
* Always shred sensitive documents including receipts, letterheads, contact lists, customer data, business cards and financial reports- a Shred All policy is advised.
* Have a strategy in place to manage a data breach, including pre-prepared communications for employees, customers and even the media.
* Ensure that all employees working from home understand the importance of ensuring confidential data is disposed of securely.
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