Which Mail to Shred

Originally viewed at About.com: http://idtheft.about.com/od/preventionpractices/tp/Shredding-Mail.htm


One of the areas where you’re most at risk for identity theft is in your paper mail. More than 100 million pieces of mail are delivered by the USPS each day; mail that has identifying personal information that can be used to steal your identity. Here’s what you should shred.

Shred Financial Documents

Anything that comes from a financial institution could potentially be used by an identity thief. Sure, you have to keep copies of bank and credit card statements for record-keeping purposes, but only for three years. Anything that’s older than that should be shredded.

Shred Documents Containing Personal Information
Your personal information is what identity thieves are after. Your date-of-birth and Social Security Number are especially vulnerable so make sure anything that has those numbers on them goes through the shredder. Other information to be wary of: your full name and address, home or work telephone numbers, or driver’s license number.

Shred Documents Containing Account Information

Don’t put your identifying account information at risk. Account numbers, user names, and passwords are key information that identity thieves try to capture. Shred any documents that have this information printed on them.

Shred Junk Mail

Junk mail can be dangerous. Most people don’t realize it, but junk mail usually has a computer bar code on the front that can sometimes contain personally identifying information. Shred all of your junk mail, including the return envelopes provided with it.

Why your Organization needs a Records Management Program

Do you know what records your organization must keep and for how long, to comply with federal and state statutes and regulations? Have you identified and preserved your organization’s vital records ensuring they are available in case of disaster? If you are involved in litigation, do you know where your organization’s electronically stored records are located and how they can be searched and accessed? If your organization completes an IRS Form 990, will you be able to answer “yes” to the question asking whether your organization has a records management program in place?

If your answer to these questions is “no”, then your organization must not have a records management program. Or maybe your organization has a records management policy but employees do not adhere to the policies. If your organization does not have a records management program, I cannot stress enough the importance of starting one in today’s world of electronic documents and potential litigation exposure. News reports of records management mishaps at several Fortune 500 companies should have you interested in implementing standardized records management practices within your organization. If your organization has a program, put it into everyday practice. Do not ignore the policies. Ignoring the records management policies can potentially result in your organization and its employees facing criminal penalties. Arthur Andersen did not follow their record retention policy, resulting in their demise.

So what is records management? Records management is the effective and systematic control of an organization’s records, regardless of medium, through their entire life cycle – from receipt or creation until their final disposition. Records management ensures that valuable records evidencing an organization’s activities and that have legal, fiscal, administrative, or historical value are protected and accessible while useless records are systematically destroyed.

Implementing a records management program will benefit your organization and employees in the following ways:

> Compliance with federal and state legal record retention requirements. Staff will know which statutory and regulatory requirements pertain to their organization’s records taking the guesswork out of what records need to be retained. Compliance with these requirements avoids costly fines and penalties including criminal penalties to which employees may be subject.

> Preservation of records important to your organization’s operations. In addition to meeting legal record retention requirements, the process of reviewing your organization’s record creation and establishing retention periods will assure that your organization retains records appropriately for non-legal reasons, e.g. business operations, financial analysis, historical archiving , etc.
Your organization’s employees will have the records needed to perform their jobs.

> Improved and cost effective retrieval/access to information. Reducing the amount of records stored through the implementation of a records retention schedule, will accelerate the retrieval and access to information. Monitoring and updating recordkeeping systems when necessary will ensure your organization’s requirements are continually met in a cost effective manner.

> Reduced occupancy and operating costs. Expensive real estate space is saved through the consistent destruction of useless records, converting paper documents that must be retained for long periods to an electronic format, and transferring semi-current or inactive paper records to a low-cost off-site Records Center. Implementing a records retention program can reduce on-site and off-site electronic and hard copy storage costs by 30% or more. Controlling the growth of records storage reduces the need to purchase filing equipment and server space.

> Improved office efficiency and productivity. Your organization will save money by reducing the labor involved in the organization, retrieval, and dissemination of recorded information. Less time will be spent searching for missing or misfiled records.

> Protection and support in litigation, investigation, or audit. A consistently applied records management program helps identify records needed to support your organization, minimize the risks associated with document retention/disposal, and limits your organization’s exposure to litigation. Your organization will reduce the time and costs of locating records and save money by reducing the burdens and scope of pre-trial discovery.

> Safeguarded vital information. The integrity and confidentiality of records are preserved and vital records essential to your organization’s existence are protected. Your organization will reduce costly time and effort required to reconstruct mission critical information in the event of disaster.

> Supported management decision making. A records management program can help ensure that managers and executives have the information they need when they need it for current decisions and future business planning purposes.

> Defensible destruction procedures. Consistent records destruction in accordance with your organization’s policy ensures your organizations records will not be destroyed prematurely or retained longer than needed and reduces the chance of reckless, selective or personally motivated destruction of records. Proper destruction procedures ensure compliance with state and federal privacy statutes.

> Preservation of your organization’s history. Records with historical value are preserved in your organization’s archives, an irreplaceable asset. The archives serve as the institutional memory of your organization, ensuring that records are available to researchers today and in the future. Get control of your organizations records and start developing a plan to implement a records management program.

How the Services of a Commercial Records Center can Benefit Your Organization

With the cost of prime office space skyrocketing and competing priorities for existing office space, maybe you are looking for ways to use your office space in a more cost-effective manner. Or maybe your organization is looking to reduce your current leased space or is moving to a newer, even smaller office facility. My recommendation is that you consider storing some of your organization’s paper records at a commercial records center, freeing up or reducing your office space.Like any organization, you are required to retain certain records for administrative, operational, legal and/or historical reasons. Not all of the records you are required to retain are referenced that often and it is these semi-current or inactive records I recommend you store at a records center rather than housing them within your prime office space. Office space is expensive and ever-increasing, and should be used for people, not inactive records. [Read more...]