March 01, 2023

Steps to Help Protect Confidential Data

Fraud is a frequent and ongoing threat for both businesses and consumers. In 2021, consumers lost $5.8 billion to fraud in the U.S. While this activity impacts all demographics, it does so in different ways. According to the Federal Trade Commission, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z were 34% more likely than those 60 and over to lose money to fraud, particularly shopping fraud. Older adults were more susceptible to tech support scams.

Consumers place a lot of trust in businesses like yours, and to help keep that trust, you should do your best to protect their information from fraud. National Consumer Protection Week in the U.S. and Fraud Prevention Month in Canada, are good times to think about what your company is doing to best prevent consumer fraud. Shred-it® shares a few steps your business and consumers can take to help protect their data.

What Businesses Can Do to Help Safeguard Consumers From Fraud

Develop Comprehensive Data Protection Policies and Procedures to Help Protect Consumer Information

A well-rounded data protection program is essential to helping protect confidential data. Implementing information security policies and procedures can standardize the way your business uses, monitors, and manages data so that it can more efficiently and effectively reduce the risk of a data breach. Comprehensive data protection policies and procedures can vary depending on your type of business and data sources.

If your business does not have the internal expertise to develop and manage these policies and procedures, you can consult a third-party data protection provider.

Train Employees to Spot Potential Fraud and How to Handle Suspicious Activity

You should offer data security training at the start of employment and at regular intervals to help employees learn to identify suspicious activity and how to report it. According to Shred-it®’s 2022 Data Protection Report (DPR), 48% of small business leaders (SBLs) surveyed believe that employee error was the source of a data breach, making this strategy important for protecting a business’ consumer data.

Enforce Digital Security

There are several steps you can take to promote digital cyber safety. These include using strong passwords and a virtual private network (VPN), training staff on how to spot dangerous emails, and installing two-factor authentication (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA) to protect login information.

Incorporate Physical Document Destruction

Physical document destruction can help protect data from getting into the wrong hands. Help stop dumpster divers and malicious insiders from sorting through confidential documents, potentially gaining access to sensitive consumer information. The Shred-it® 2022 DPR found that malicious insiders caused 31% of data breaches, according to businesses surveyed.

You can proactively check printing stations, employee desks, trash bins and recycling bins to remove confidential documents and dispose of them in a shredding console or lock them away. Implementing a shred-it-all policy is one way to help make sure all documents are securely destroyed and that no information is left out for unauthorized individuals to gain access.

Conduct Surprise Audits

As part of your fraud prevention program, you should conduct internal audits. The role of internal audits includes detecting, preventing, and monitoring fraud risks and addressing those risks in audits and investigations. According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, job rotation/mandatory vacation policies, as well as surprise audits, were two factors that were associated with at least a 50% reduction in both median loss and median duration in certain fraud cases.

What Consumers Can Do to Help Protect Against Fraud

Know Who You Are Giving your Information To

Always be skeptical and verify that businesses are legitimate before providing personal information. If you are unfamiliar with the company, check with your local consumer protection agency and Better Business Bureau to see if the organization is credible. Call the phone number found on the company website to help ensure that the phone number really belongs to the company you are dealing with.

Protect Physical Documents

Just like a business, individuals should protect their physical documents. One way is to implement a clean desk policy at home to help ensure physical documents — whether they be tax returns, pay stubs, or other private information — are shredded or securely contained. There are several convenient options you can use to dispose of personal documents at home, including professional document destruction services, such as Shred-it®, which offers residential shredding, drop-off shredding at a local office, or community shredding events.

Use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Using multi-factor authentication (MFA) helps ensure that even if a password is leaked, hackers cannot access your confidential information. This authentication requires you to verify your information in several steps to open a device.

Be Aware of Popular Fraud Schemes

Popular types of fraud include, but are not limited to, credit card fraud, mortgage fraud, and online shopping scams. This might include a consumer giving their information to a non-legitimate business, and then that data is used to commit a crime.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the most common types of consumer fraud?

Among the most common types of consumer fraud are identity theft, mortgage fraud, credit card fraud, and interest rate reduction robocalls.

How can employees be trained to spot and prevent consumer fraud?

Organizations should develop their own standard information security policies and procedures to keep sensitive information safe. These policies should be incorporated into regular employee training sessions. If employees know how to spot fraud and are clear about who to report it to, the risk of a security breach is substantially reduced.

How can businesses protect against physical document theft?

Two policies that can be effective in document management are a clean desk policy and a shred-it-all policy. A clean desk policy helps ensure physical documents are shredded or contained and that all technological devices are password protected each time an employee leaves a workspace. A shred-it-all policy encourages the regular destruction of all documents to help ensure no confidential information is left out in the open that could potentially fall into the wrong hands.

How can consumers protect themselves from consumer fraud?

Consumers can protect themselves from consumer fraud by calling businesses to see if offers are legitimate, asking for regular credit reports to monitor for fraudulent activity, and refraining from signing paperwork or answering any messages that are confusing. People can report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Learn how Shred-it® can help you protect your customers’ confidential information from fraud.