Identity Theft - Is your business at risk?

by Juditnh A. Wentzel

More and more business owners are purchasing document shredders then ever before.

Why?... Identity theft for starters.

A new law is going into effect in the summer of 2005 which states that if you employ anyone for any reason and have personal information on file regarding that individual for Social Security taxes, credit references, etc., you will have to destroy that information on any document before you toss it into the trash.

The law requires you to destroy all paper or computer disks containing personal information which has been derived from a consumer report before it may be discarded.

FACTA (Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act) came into being when signed by President Bush on December 4, 2003. 

Some of what FACTA allows: 

* One free credit report per year per consumer at or by calling 877-322-8228. This went into effect across the country on September 1, 2003.

* All electronically printed credit card receipts must show only the last five digits of a credit card number. This went into effect in December 2003.

*All information collected from a consumer credit report must be destroyed by an employer prior to discarding it. This will become effective June 1, 2005.

*Anyone suspecting identity theft needs to notify only one of three credit-reporting companies in order to set off a nationwide fraud alert. This is effective now.

*Whether your loan is approved or not, mortgage companies have to provide the credit score they used to determine the loans interest rate. This is effective now.

Identity theft has become a huge problem and it is hitting corporate America hard.

Approximately 7 million people had their identities stolen in 2003.

The cost to reinstate their credit averaged about $1,495 each with approximately 600 hours of time invested to straighten out his/her finances.

For the destruction of documents, shredders are becoming one of the most popular purchases by home owners as well.

How many of us have gone through the hassle of tearing up bank statements or other personal documents into little pieces and tossing them down the toilet? Perhaps you have opted to burn these documents in an effort to safeguard your identity. What ever methods you have used, shredding is an easier, effective means to accomplish this goal.

What could happen if you don't shred your employee data before discarding it and some of your employee data falls into the wrong hands?

- You could be sued by an employee for actual damages. Or you could be liable for statutory damages of up to $1,000 per employee.

- In the event that a large number of employee’s identities have been affected, a class action lawsuit could be launched resulting in you, the employer having to pay punitive damages.

- U.S. Government fines of up to $2,500 per violation.

- State Fines -up to $1,000 per violation.

So... doesn't it make sense to purchase a shredder and adhere to the requirements of this new law?

The best type of shredder to purchase - one that cross cuts. This type of shredder really destroys a document. Just try piecing one together after it has been through one of these devices.

Identity theft is a growing problem. Don't let your company or household become another statistic.

About the Author: Image Smarter Web Site Design, Marketing & Business Services. Assisting small business owners with their business and marketing needs since 1993.

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