This article was published in Info4Security
By: Brian Sims
National Identity Fraud Prevention Week, which starts today, seeks to inform the general public and businesses about the threat of ID fraud and the simple steps they can take to protect themselves.
The Data Protection Act 1998 states that all organisations are legally required to store, secure and destroy personal and confidential information both responsibly and securely.
Despite this, identity fraud is still a frequent occurrence within business, often with devastating consequences for themselves, their customers and their employees. It comes at a cost to the UK economy of over £1 billion every year.
To try and stem the tide, National Identity Fraud Prevention Week 2009 is supported by the Metropolitan Police Service, Fellowes, the National Fraud Authority, the Federation of Small Businesses, Equifax, CIFAS (the UK's fraud prevention service), Call Credit, Experian, the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Home Office's Identity and Passport Service, the British Chambers of Commerce, the British Retail Consortium and Royal Mail.
Upsurge in document security action
Just as National Identity Fraud Prevention Week starts, Shred-it is reporting an upsurge in the numbers of small businesses and individuals acting to seize control of their document security in the office and at home.
Identity theft ranks currently as one of the UK's fastest-growing crimes, with CIFAS estimating that one-in-ten people have already been a victim of identity fraud in the UK.
Against this background, 2009 has seen Shred-it witness an upsurge in owners of small enterprises across the UK, including those operating from home, visiting branches across the country to request assistance in securely shredding confidential business materials.
In addition, instances of customers from across a range of backgrounds asking the company to securely shred confidential personal information have also become more frequent.
Financial and reputational damage
"Concerns about personal data security are now more prominent in the public consciousness than ever before. No business, regardless of its size, can afford to run the risk of facing the financial and reputational damage which a data breach can inflict," commented Robert Guice, senior vice-president (EMEA) at Shred-it.
"Smaller businesses, including those operating from home, often don't have cost-effective or secure destruction facilities in place. Some individuals only have strip shred personal shredders which meet neither the security specifications or volume requirements of small businesses."
Guice continued: "This is why, with concerns over their business' reputation and customer confidentiality, they are coming direct to branches to securely destroy their confidential documents. We believe that this trend will continue to increase as identity fraud awareness grows."
For Guice, the exact same thinking applies when it comes to the destruction of personal documents such as bills or bank statements. Members of the public are coming direct to firms such as Shred-it because they want to be able to enjoy the peace of mind associated with destroying information of this kind using a totally secure process.
Mike Denny from Manchester, who works in the insurance claims industry, recently contacted Shred-it to dispose of archived client information from a small business he used to operate.
Denny told SMT Online: "During the course of running my old business I accumulated large amounts of confidential client documents which I was legally required to retain for six years. Much of the information contained in these documents was highly sensitive and needed to be properly disposed of."
Denny went on to say: "Simply dumping these documents as part of my general refuse wasn't an option, as this would have left my ex-clients facing a heightened risk of identity theft and other fraud. Shred-it's Manchester branch helped me resolve this issue by securely shredding all of the documentation on the spot at its depot."