March 02, 2020

National Consumer Protection Week: It’s Time to Take Protecting Your Information More Seriously

March is the time of year that businesses and consumers should take a good look in the mirror to consider how they are keeping their information safe.  

In the U.S., March 1st to 7th marks National Consumer Protection Week, a public awareness week dedicated to educating consumers and organizations about best practices when it comes to protecting personal information. In Canada, March also marks Fraud Prevention Month, a campaign focused on teaching organizations and individuals on how to recognize and report fraud.

Fraud is costly to businesses and hurts individuals. In fact, our 2019 Data Protection Report  showed that 27% of consumers would take their business elsewhere following a data breach.

At Shred-it, we know the most effective way to fight fraud is to take steps to prevent it from happening in the first place. But what can organizations do to protect their customers and their business, and are there things that individuals should be doing to keep themselves safe? 

What can organizations do to protect consumers from fraud?  
  1. Firms 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.
  1. Take document security seriously. Have a clear policy on how confidential documents are identified, where and how they are stored, and who has access to them. Leaving confidential documents out in the open or putting them into a regular recycling bin makes it easier for information to be stolen.  Consider a Shred it all policy.
  1. Implement surprise audits into your internal review process. While fraud can originate outside of your organization, disgruntled employees or inadvertent errors can also be security risks and incorporating a surprise audit process can expose dangers before it’s too late.

What can consumers do to protect themselves from fraud?
  1. Be aware of who you are giving your personal information out to. Make sure that you are dealing with a real company and not an imposter, especially if you are sent an official-looking email from an unfamiliar address or get a phone call from an unknown number. Always verify the correct contact information through a company’s official website before providing personal information.
  1. When it comes to sensitive information like tax returns and pay stubs, the same principle applies to individuals as to organizations – destroy it properly if you don’t need it any longer.
  1. Use two- or multi-factor authentication to protect your accounts. This way, even if your password is hacked or stolen, fraudsters won’t be able to access your account as they don’t have access to your phone or email. You’ll also get a notification for every login attempt, so you’ll know it’s time to update your password.
Take a step towards stronger data protection by using Shred-it’s new Risk Assessment Tool to help your organization identify and address any risks. You can also contact us for a free quote or to learn more about how Shred-it can protect your documents.