It's Tax Season. So it's also Dumpster Diving Season.
Don't allow your front-load dumpster to become an identity thief's criminal accomplice this tax season.
Shredding tax forms with sensitive information like a social security number, date of birth, and income details is becoming more commonplace in households and businesses these days. But surprisingly, businesses sometimes throw away items into their dumpsters that can expose their companies to massive liabilities by contributing to the nightmare of identity theft.
If your company handles clients' tax, credit, medical, or other sensitive client information, the risk goes far beyond an employee throwing away somebody's 1040 without running it through a cross-cut shredded.
US News (1) once reported that only an estimated 1 in 700, or even 1 in 1,000 identity theft cases actually ended with a conviction. So to cause such a devastating event with such a low likelihood of resolution is certainly not in the best interest of a business or its clientele.
Beyond shredding documents, though, be sure to guard these items from going into a dumpster, and of course then into a garbage dump, fully intact and containing data a criminal can access for criminal purposes:
1. Computers. Astonishingly, fully intact computers have been thrown away by banks and other companies over the years, making headlines (2) when they were caught by media reporters. In the wrong hands, a computer can be full of thousands of client files with sensitive data that identity thieves can use to open unauthorized credit cards, loans, and even steal tax refunds.
2. Cell phones. Likewise, a cell phone can be full of more than just names and numbers. Smartphones with stored passwords can give an identity thief unrestricted access to everything on a computer, except conveniently concealed.
3. Prescription drugs and packaging. (3) Criminals can profit handily from stealing discarded medications from the trash and using patient data on packaging to steal refills of prescription drugs from patients. Pill bottles, discharge papers, and other medically sensitive information that a patient carries from the doctor's office to the pharmacy can give an identity thief enough information to impersonate the patient and sell their medications on the streets. How to correctly get rid of unused medication.
4. Mail. Even junk mail. Pre-authorized credit card offers (4) that come in the mail offer a prime example of mail that should be cross-shredded (5) and never put into any dumpster intact. A criminal can request the card, request an authorized user card in the criminal's name, and manage to fraudulently access the victim's credit without being detected until it's too late.
This tax season, and during every season, we thank you for using our front-load dumpsters responsibly and encourage you to always strive to protect your customers' sensitive data every time you throw something away.