Lack of understanding of what constitutes confidential information putting UK businesses at risk from fraud

Posted: November 18, 2014

  • A fifth of UK SME business owner managers believe they possess no documents that would cause the business harm if stolen
  • Shred-it marks International Fraud Awareness Week by highlighting five fraud risk spots in the workplace

London 18 Nov 2014: Limited knowledge and awareness about what constitutes confidential information is putting UK businesses at risk of falling victim to fraud if these materials are not securely destroyed, Shred-it, the UK’s leading data destruction company has warned.

A report from Shred-it, released during International Fraud Awareness Week, shows that a fifth of UK SME business owners (21%) believe they possess no documents that could cause their businesses harm if stolen. However, all businesses possess material that should be treated as confidential under UK and European data protection legislation, including employee records, client invoices, payslips and emails containing personal and professional information including that of customers. In fact, if these documents are being disposed of in unsecured wastepaper or recycling bins, then there is a risk that they could fall into the hands of fraudsters.

The findings are part of Shred-it’s annual State of the Industry Report, which provides an overview of information security trends in the UK, and updates UK businesses on recent changes to legislation. Shred-it is calling on all organisations in the UK to consider the significant potential reputational and financial damage that fraud can cause.

“It’s simply not possible for an organisation to have no confidential information in its possession. All business leaders must therefore educate themselves and their employees on information security,” said Robert Guice, Executive Vice President, Shred-it EMEA.

He added, “With 40% of data breaches resulting from simple human error, acknowledging vulnerabilities within the workplace and taking action to introduce policies and procedures that will help reduce the risk of fraud will protect the sensitive data of clients and employees, and ensure peace of mind.”

In recognition of International Fraud Awareness Week, Shred-it has identified a list of the top five fraud risk areas in the workplace. By addressing these vulnerabilities, UK companies can help protect employee and client confidential information.

Top Five Fraud Risk Areas in the Workplace:

  • Printers and photocopiers:  Many offices do not require employees to use a security code to complete a print job, which means that confidential information is frequently printed and left at printing stations. In order to mitigate this danger, businesses should mandate that employees secure their print jobs by using a security code or allow employees printing confidential information to use a printer in their own office workspace.
  • Non-Secure Recycling Bins and Wastepaper Baskets: Disposing of data in an unsecure bin is just as risky as leaving it at a printer or on a desk. A shred-all policy eliminates the guesswork from the process and ensures that employees don’t accidentally leave confidential information in unsecure locations.  Shredded material also tends to be recycled by reputable data destruction providers – don’t forget to ask!
  • Messy Desks: Messy desks with loose paperwork are vulnerable to snooping and data theft from people both within and outside an organisation, such as cleaners and other third-party contractors. Consider implementing a clear desk policy and provide lockable storage units so employees can protect confidential information.
  • IT Device Storage: Electronic storage devices are very convenient when you can’t access the company network, but they also raise the risk of fraud. Businesses can reduce the risk of fraud by requiring that storage devices be signed out and ensuring that they are securely destroyed when they reach the end of their useful life.
  • Mobile workplaces:  With an increasingly mobile workforce, many people can now access all their files at home or on the move. While convenient, that means that confidential information may be left in areas that are unsecure. Companies should caution employees to only take or print confidential information outside the workplace when absolutely necessary and instruct them on proper secure disposal procedures.

- Ends -

For further information contact:
Meryl McMillan
Weber Shandwick
Phone: 020 7067 0435

About Shred-it
Shred-it is a world-leading information security company providing information destruction services that ensure the security and integrity of our clients' private information. The company operates in 170 markets throughout 18 countries worldwide, servicing more than 300,000 global, national and local businesses. For more information, please visit

Shred-it has branches in the following UK and Ireland locations: Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff, Chippenham, Dublin, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Leeds, London – Brentford, London - Stratford, Manchester, Milton Keynes, Newcastle, Nottingham, Portsmouth and Preston.

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