Paper Shredding for Offices

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Paper shredding in offices became a popular trend during the 1980’s. This came after the judgment of the Supreme Court, about the warrant-less seizure and search of garbage left for collection outside homes, was not prohibited. This led to a rapid increase in the sales of these paper shredding machines. Earlier government agencies were the ones who mainly used these paper shredders. But the change in these laws and the risks involved in the disposal of documents without shredding, led to the increased use of these paper shredders.

 

Paper shredding is vital for all offices. There are thousands of documents which are made and discarded in offices every day. These documents can contain confidential information or sensitive statistics which can be detrimental for the company, if it falls in the wrong hands. These documents could be anything, it could be about the non payments of taxes or some scams that had been done at the office or any other confidential issues such as these. If the government or competition companies come across these documents, then there are risks of closure and misuse of these documents also. Hence it is always recommended that offices should always dispose their vital documents through a paper shredder.

 

The paper shredders used in offices are very different from the ones which are used at home. The reason being, that the amount of paper shredding done in offices is much larger than that done at  homes. There are thousands of papers which are disposed through paper shredders every day and the machine should be sturdy enough to handle this pressure. Paper shredding machines used in offices are much bigger in size and shapes and they also dispose of much thicker paper, as compared to the regular paper shredders.

 

It is vital that the paper shredders at office be given maintenance and regular checks. Since these shredders are used more often there should be an instruction document attached near the shredder. This will reduce inappropriate methods of paper shredding that can actually result in shorter life span for the paper shredder. The use of any sharp objects like staples and paper clips in the shredder should be avoided. Regular servicing and oiling are some of the best methods of improving the functions of the paper shredders and also its life span. The blade of the shredder is sharp for both strips and cross cut paper shredders.

An alternative to in-house shredding is to outsource to a mobile paper shredding service.

 

Shredding is Habit Forming

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If identity theft has the ability to radically change your life for the worse, shredding has the ability to preserve your life as you know it. Shredding is important. It’s become like flossing your teeth or exercising every day. We know it’s good for us and it’s the right thing to do, but how many people shred on a regular basis? Some of us do, but not all. The fact remains that we’d all be better off if we flossed and we’d all be better off if we shredded our documents on a regular basis.

 

The documents we come into contact with on a daily basis contain a great deal of personal information, all of it unique to us. That information needs to be protected. It is our own responsibility to take care of this in a timely and regular way. Document Shredding needs to become a habit. Like anything other habit, we need to build the shredding habit.

 

First, we have to buy into the idea that shredding is important. Millions of Americans are the victims of identity theft every year. Many of those spend extraordinary amounts of time (and money) unraveling the theft and trying to regain control of their identity. Being careful and cautious about how your personal information is used online is very important in keeping your identity safe. But until we become an absolutely paperless society, document based theft will continue to be a problem. Once a piece of paper with your personal information on it leaves your possession, you have no control over where it goes or what’s done with it. Shredding documents containing personal information is vital to protecting yourself against identity theft. It is very difficult to un-shred a document. Shredding destroys the information contained in the document then and there. You can be assured that the information goes no further.

 

Once you agree that shredding is very important, decide what sort of shredder you want to be. Are you a daily shredder? Are you a weekly shredder? Are you the sort of procrastinator shredder who makes a pile in the living room of papers to be shredded at a time to be determined later? A good way to remember to shred documents is to set up a shredding time that coincides with paying your bills. If you pay your bills weekly, take a minute or two after each bill paying session and shred the documents you no longer need. File the rest. Do the same if you pay your bills monthly. Make it a habit to shred all receipts at that time as well. Clean out your wallet. Pull the receipts out of your purse. Shred them.

 

Once you get in the habit of shredding unnecessary documents and filing the rest, you’ll feel less anxious about the whole process.

 

While you’re at it, make it a habit to check over your credit card statements carefully each month and to run a credit report on yourself at least once a year. And remember to floss.

 

Paper Shredding – Document Shredding and the Law

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Under U.S. criminal law, the general rule is that ignorance of the law or a mistake of law is not a valid defense to criminal prosecution…

 

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 20, 2009
www.texasattorneygeneral.gov

CONTACT
Press Office at
(512) 463-2050

 

Attorney General Abbott Charges Edinburg Fitness Center With Identity Theft Prevention Act Violations

 

AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has charged an Edinburg fitness center with failing to adequately store and safeguard documents that contained customers’ sensitive personal information. Under the Identity Theft Enforcement and Protection Act, businesses are legally required to implement procedures that ensure customers’ sensitive personal information – including Social Security, Driver’s License, and financial account numbers – is protected from unlawful use or disclosure.

The defendant, Edinburg-based Cornerstone Fitness, closed its McColl Road facility in October 2007. According to the state’s investigation, the defendant hired a moving company to transport equipment, furniture, and business records to its flagship facility on Cornerstone Blvd.

Some time during the next few months, a filing cabinet was discovered in the dumpster behind the defendant’s old McColl Road location. Court documents indicate that customers’ completed Personal Training Service contracts, which include sensitive personal information, were found inside the discarded filing cabinet. The state’s investigation subsequently showed that the defendants lacked records’ retention, management, and disposal policies.

Under the Identity Theft Enforcement and Protection Act, which was authored by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, the defendant faces civil penalties that range from $2,000 and $50,000 per violation. In addition to statutory penalties, the state’s enforcement action seeks an injunction requiring the defendant to implement a comprehensive records management policy.

Although investigators could not confirm whether any personal information was obtained or misused by identity thieves, Cornerstone Fitness customers should carefully monitor bank, credit card and similar financial statements for evidence of suspicious activity. To prevent identity theft, all Texans should obtain annual, cost-free copies of their credit reports.

Texans who wish to file a complaint may contact the Office of the Attorney General at (800) 252-8011 or do so online at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov, where they can also obtain information on identity theft detection and prevention.

FOR OTHER ITEMS ASSOCIATED WITH ATTORNEY GENERAL ANNOUNCEMENTS, ACCESS OAG NEWS RELEASES ONLINE AT WWW.TEXASATTORNEYGENERAL.GOV.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 11, 2008
www.texasattorneygeneral.gov

CONTACT
Press Office at
(512) 463-2050

 

Texas Attorney General Secures Agreements Protecting Texans From Identity Theft

Businesses accused of improperly disposing of records, exposing private information

 

AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed an enforcement action against one Rio Grande Valley company and reached agreements with two others that will help protect Texans from identity theft. All three companies were charged with failing to protect and properly discard records containing customers’ sensitive personal information.

Today’s agreements require the two companies to enhance their information-security procedures and training programs. They will also pay a combined total of $145,000 in penalties and attorneys’ fees.

“Identity theft is one of the nation’s fastest growing and costly criminal enterprises,” Attorney General Abbott said. “These cases all involve companies that failed to properly dispose of materials containing their customers’ sensitive personal information. The Office of the Attorney General is committed to enforcing laws that help prevent identity theft.”

To resolve the state’s investigation, GAB Robins, which provides services to insurance carriers, agreed to pay $125,000 in penalties and attorneys’ fees, and improve its information security protocols and employee training program. Under the settlement, $100,000 will fund future identity theft investigations.

The state launched its investigation after a Corpus Christi reporter discovered company records in a dumpster that was not protected by security measures. Documents obtained by OAG investigators contained customers’ personal information, including name, driver’s license number and date of birth.

The second settlement involved B&F Finance McAllen, L.L.C., a loan company managed by Victory Management Services (“VMS”). In that case, B&F improperly disposed of customers’ personal identifying information in a publicly accessible trash receptacle behind its McAllen offices. Despite the unlawful disposal, VMS assured its customers through the company’s privacy notices that it keeps customers’ private personal information in a secure environment and that security procedures are used to protect customer data.

VMS agreed to improve its information security procedures, implement an employee training program, and pay the state $20,000 in civil penalties and attorney’s fees.

The Attorney General also is filing a separate enforcement action against a third company, Nino Tax of Brownsville. The state launched its investigation after the Brownsville Police Department turned over to the OAG five boxes of records that were next to a dumpster behind the defendant’s office. The business records contained approximately 200 customers’ personal identifying information.

Although the investigations have revealed no confirmed incidents of victims’ personal information being obtained or misused by identity thieves, customers whose records may have been contained at the affected locations should carefully monitor bank, credit card and similar financial statements for evidence of suspicious activity. Texans also should obtain free annual copies of their credit reports from www.annualcreditreport.com to guard against this growing crime.

Consumers who wish to file a complaint may contact the Office of the Attorney General at (800) 252-8011 or do so online at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov, where they also can obtain information on identity theft detection and prevention.

FOR OTHER ITEMS ASSOCIATED WITH ATTORNEY GENERAL ANNOUNCEMENTS, ACCESS OAG NEWS RELEASES ONLINE AT WWW.TEXASATTORNEYGENERAL.GOV.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 29, 2008
www.texasattorneygeneral.gov

CONTACT
Press Office at
(512) 463-2050

 

Attorney General Abbott Charges San Antonio Rehab Facility With Unlawfully Dumping Client Records

Treatment Associates cited for exposing medical records of more than 40 clients

 

SAN ANTONIO – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today charged Treatment Associates of Victoria, Inc., with violating the Texas Identity Theft Enforcement and Protection Act. According to court documents, the San Antonio-based drug testing and rehabilitation facility violated a state law that requires businesses to protect their customers’ sensitive information.

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) launched an investigation after reports indicated that Treatment Associates had unlawfully dumped bulk client records in publicly-accessible garbage containers. According to OAG investigators, the defendant exposed 44 clients’ sensitive personal and medical information, including Social Security numbers, private medical history and substance abuse records. The files also contained private information that clients shared during counseling sessions, as well as the personal information of clients’ family members and other third parties.

“Identity theft continues to be one of the most devastating white-collar crimes in the country,” Attorney General Abbott said. “This defendant faces severe penalties for failing to protect its clients’ sensitive personal and medical information. The Office of the Attorney General will continue working to protect Texans from identity thieves.”

Treatment Associates is charged with violating provisions of the 2005 Identity Theft Enforcement and Protection Act, which governs how businesses dispose of their clients’ sensitive personal information. Under the Act, the OAG may seek civil penalties of up to $50,000 per violation. The defendant also faces civil penalties of up to $500 for each abandoned record under Chapter 35 of the Business and Commerce Code, which requires businesses to develop retention and disposal procedures for their clients’ personal information.

Attorney General Abbott also charged Treatment Associates with violating the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA) and the Texas Health and Safety Code for failing to protect clients’ medical privacy. The OAG may seek penalties of up to $20,000 per violation of the DTPA and up to $25,000 per violation under the Health and Safety Code.

Attorney General investigators are working to determine if any exposed data has been used illegally. Clients who interacted with Treatment Associates should carefully monitor bank, credit card and any similar statements for evidence of theft. Customers should also consider obtaining free copies of their credit reports at www.annualcreditreport.com.

Today’s legal action is the latest in a series of efforts by Attorney General Abbott to combat identity theft in Texas, a state the FTC ranks as No. 4 per capita in the incidence of the crime. In 2007 and 2008, the OAG filed several enforcement actions against vendors that carelessly and unlawfully disposed of confidential records containing customers’ personal information. The OAG has obtained more than $2.6 million in civil penalties for future identity theft prosecutions and reached agreements with several businesses to improve their document disposal systems and protect their customers from identity theft.

Attorney General Abbott also launched a consumer-friendly Web site to help Texans prevent or minimize the damage from identity theft. The site, www.texasfightsidtheft.gov, includes helpful resources, including the Identity Theft Victim’s Kit, which offers a step-by-step priority checklist that victims can use as soon as possible to prevent further damage.

Anyone who encounters a business exposing records with personal information, such as Social Security numbers, may call the OAG’s toll-free complaint hotline at (800) 252-8011 or file a complaint online at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov.

FOR OTHER ITEMS ASSOCIATED WITH ATTORNEY GENERAL ANNOUNCEMENTS, ACCESS OAG NEWS RELEASES ONLINE AT WWW.TEXASATTORNEYGENERAL.GOV.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 16, 2008
www.texasattorneygeneral.gov

CONTACT
Press Office at
(512) 463-2050

 

Attorney General Abbott Reaches Agreements That Will Help Protect Texans From Identity Theft

Agreed judgments require Select Medical Corp., RadioShack to improve privacy safeguards

 

AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott reached settlement agreements with Select Medical Corp. and RadioShack that will help protect Texans from identity theft. The settlements resolve two state enforcement actions, which charged both defendants with violating state laws governing the disposal of customer records that contain sensitive personal information.

Under the agreements, the state will receive nearly $1.5 million that will ultimately fund future identity theft investigations and prosecutions. Equally important, both defendants will strengthen their existing information security policies by implementing new employee training programs that highlight identity theft prevention and educate staff about proper document destruction protocols. Under Texas law, vendors must take specific precautions before discarding documents that include customers’ bank accounts, driver’s license and Social Security numbers.

“Recognizing that identity theft is one of the nation’s fastest growing criminal enterprises, the Texas Legislature passed laws to protect Texans from this crime,” Attorney General Abbott said. “Under today’s agreements, both defendants will implement new procedures that will better safeguard their customers’ personal information. Equally important, nearly $1.5 million in proceeds from these settlements will be used to fund future identity theft investigations and prosecutions.”

The state’s agreement with Select Physical Therapy Texas L.P. requires the health care provider to amend its existing information security procedures to ensure future compliance with identity theft prevention laws. Select Medical must implement a new training program that educates their Texas employees about newly established privacy procedures and reviews state laws governing the disposal of customer records.

Under the agreement, all Select Medical Texas employees must take the training annually for the next five years. The mandatory course will explain identity theft, its costs to individual customers and the importance of complying with the company’s newly implemented document disposal protocol. To further ensure that employees comply with the new protocol, each of Select Medical’s Texas locations must post signs detailing records storage and disposal requirements. They also must maintain certification records that show each employee’s compliance with the training requirements.

Select Medical agreed to pay the state of Texas $990,000, which includes $100,000 in attorneys’ fees. Under the Identity Theft Enforcement and Protection Act, the remaining sum will be appropriated for the investigation and prosecution of future identity theft cases.

The state opened its investigation into Select Medical after the Levelland Police Department reported that more than 4,000 documents containing customers’ sensitive information were found in garbage containers behind a Select Physical Therapy Texas Limited Partnership location in that city. The records discovered by authorities contained patients’ bank account numbers, sensitive medical evaluations, drug and alcohol testing verification results, plan of care forms, insurance verification sheets, and social and vocational therapy questionnaires.

An agreement with Fort Worth-based RadioShack similarly requires the electronics retailer to enhance its existing information security procedures and implement a new employee training program. RadioShack’s training curriculum will largely mirror the requirements outlined in the state’s agreement with Select Medical. Additionally, RadioShack agreed to conduct unannounced compliance audits at all of its Texas stores at least twice a year. RadioShack agreed to pay the state $630,000, which includes $50,000 in attorneys’ fees. Under the Identity Theft Enforcement and Protection Act, the remaining sum will be appropriated for the investigation and prosecution of future identity theft cases.

The state’s enforcement action against RadioShack began when state investigators learned that the retailer’s Portland location exposed thousands of customers’ personal identifying information by dumping sensitive records into a publicly accessible trash can. Documents recovered from the trash included a customer’s 1998 credit application and a receipt for a shredder one customer purchased to prevent identity theft. The records contained customers’ Social Security numbers, credit and debit card information, names, addresses and telephone numbers.

Although neither investigation revealed confirmed incidents of personal information being obtained or misused by identity thieves, customers whose records may have been contained at the affected locations should carefully monitor bank, credit card and similar financial statements for evidence of suspicious activity. Texans should also annually obtain free copies of their credit reports from www.annualcreditreport.com to guard against this growing crime.

Consumers who wish to file a complaint may contact the Office of the Attorney General at (800) 252-8011 or do so online at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov, where they can also obtain information on identity theft detection and prevention.

FOR OTHER ITEMS ASSOCIATED WITH ATTORNEY GENERAL ANNOUNCEMENTS, ACCESS OAG NEWS RELEASES ONLINE AT WWW.TEXASATTORNEYGENERAL.GOV.

 

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 8, 2008
www.texasattorneygeneral.gov

CONTACT
Press Office at
(512) 463-2050

 

Attorney General Abbott Reaches Agreement to Protect Check ‘N Go Customers from Identity Theft

Agreed judgment requires Check ‘N Go to improve document disposal process

 

EL PASO – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today reached an agreement with CNG Financial Corp. and its subsidiaries, Check ‘n Go of Texas, Inc. and Southwestern & Pacific Specialty Finance, Inc., to protect Texas customers from identity theft. The settlement resolves the state’s May 2007 enforcement action, which charged the defendants with violating laws that govern the disposal of customer records containing sensitive personal information.

Under an agreed final judgment obtained by the Attorney General, Check ‘n Go will overhaul its information security program. The program must be fully documented in writing and contain administrative, technical and physical safeguards designed to protect the personal information of Check ‘n Go customers. Check ‘n Go also will pay $220,000 to the State of Texas, which will be appropriated for the investigation and prosecution of future identity theft cases, pursuant to the Identity Theft Enforcement and Protection Act.

“Today’s agreement ensures that Check ‘n Go stores will implement new procedures to prevent identity theft,” Attorney General Abbott said. “In 2005, the Texas Legislature enacted an important law to help curb one of the nation’s fastest growing crimes. The Office of the Attorney General will continue working to prevent identity theft by aggressively enforcing laws that protect customers’ confidential information.”

Under its agreement with the state, Check ‘n Go must implement a new training program to inform its Texas employees about the company’s enhanced information security procedures. The employee training program must provide employees with a review of Check ‘n Go’s privacy procedures as well as state laws governing the disposal of customer records. The training program also must explain how identity theft harms individual consumers and businesses and the importance of abiding by the company’s disposal program.

The Office of the Attorney General took legal action against the defendants in May 2007 after discovering that several Check ‘n Go stores exposed customers to identity theft by discarding business records in easily accessible trash cans. According to the Attorney General’s enforcement action, the records included financial records and bank statements that contained names, addresses, Social Security and driver’s license numbers, and checking account information.

Under the new procedures, the defendants must designate an employee from its corporate office to oversee compliance with privacy protection laws. Store employees must be allowed to anonymously report any failures to comply with the program to the designated corporate-based employee. For two years, the compliance representative must forward a sworn statement to the Office of the Attorney General certifying that Check ‘n Go has instituted and satisfied the required employee training.

To further assure that employees comply with the program, each Check ‘n Go store must post signs explaining proper records storage and disposal procedures. Today’s judgment also requires Check ‘n Go to conduct unannounced compliance checks at each of its stores every six months.

Although the investigation revealed no confirmed incidents of personal information being misused, Check ‘n Go customers should carefully monitor bank, credit card and any similar financial statements for evidence of suspicious activity. All consumers should also annually obtain free copies of their credit reports to guard against this growing crime.

Today’s legal action is the latest in a series of efforts by Attorney General Abbott to combat identity theft in Texas, which the FTC ranks second in the nation for reported incidents of the crime. In 2007 and 2008, the Attorney General filed several enforcement actions against vendors that carelessly and unlawfully disposed of their customers’ confidential records. The state’s enforcement actions charged the defendants, including a national health services provider, with violating a 2005 law that requires vendors to protect records that might include Social Security and bank account numbers.

Anyone who encounters a business exposing records with personal information, such as Social Security numbers, may call the Attorney General’s toll-free complaint hotline at (800) 252-8011 or file a complaint online at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov.

FOR OTHER ITEMS ASSOCIATED WITH ATTORNEY GENERAL ANNOUNCEMENTS, ACCESS OAG NEWS RELEASES ONLINE AT WWW.TEXASATTORNEYGENERAL.GOV.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 10, 2008
www.texasattorneygeneral.gov

CONTACT
Press Office at
(512) 463-2050

 

Texas Attorney General Takes Action Against National Health Services Provider to Protect Consumers From Identity Theft

Select Physical Therapy Texas Limited Partnership cited for exposing customers’ medical records

 

LEVELLAND – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott took legal action today against Select Physical Therapy Texas Limited Partnership and its parent company, Select Medical Corporation, for systematically exposing their customers to identity theft risk. According to documents filed by the Attorney General, the defendants violated a 2005 law requiring them to protect any consumer records that contain sensitive information, including Social Security and bank account numbers.

Investigators with the Office of the Attorney General discovered that Select Physical Therapy Texas Limited Partnership, formerly known as HealthSouth Rehabilitation Center, exposed more than 4,000 pieces of its customers’ sensitive information, including Social Security numbers. The state’s investigation was launched after reports from the Levelland Police Department indicated that bulk customer records were dumped in garbage containers behind a local building. Select Physical Therapy Texas Limited Partnership occupied the building until closing its office in October 2007.

According to Attorney General investigators, the records also contained credit and debit card information, names, addresses, and telephone numbers. The boxes also contained copies of checks from several large corporations who contracted with Select Physical Therapy Texas Limited Partnership to conduct employee physicals and drug screenings. Investigators also discovered sensitive medical information among the records, including initial evaluation and plan of care forms, insurance verification sheets, drug and alcohol testing verification forms, and social and vocational therapy questionnaires.

“The defendants are charged with improperly – and unlawfully – disposing of sensitive personal information, including medical records,” Attorney General Abbott said. “By failing to comply with the Identity Theft Enforcement and Protection Act, the defendants not only violated the law, they exposed their customers to identity theft. We are grateful to the Levelland Police Department for vigilantly uncovering and reporting the improper disposal of these sensitive records.”

Select Physical Therapy Texas Limited Partnership and Select Medical Corporation are accused of violating provisions of the 2005 Identity Theft Enforcement and Protection Act, which requires businesses to protect and properly dispose of clients’ sensitive personal information. The Act gives the Office of the Attorney General authority to seek penalties of up to $50,000 per violation.

The Attorney General also charged Select Physical Therapy Texas Limited Partnership and Select Medical Corporation with violating Chapter 35 of the Business and Commerce Code, which requires businesses to develop retention and disposal procedures for their clients’ personal information. The law provides for civil penalties of up to $500 for each abandoned record.

Attorney General investigators are also working to determine if any exposed data has been used illegally. Consumers who interacted with the Levelland business should carefully monitor bank, credit card and any similar statements for evidence of theft. Customers should also consider obtaining free copies of their credit reports.

The case is one of several identity theft enforcement actions filed by the Office of the Attorney General. In 2007, Attorney General Abbott filed a similar action against Minnesota-based Life Time Fitness and its subsidiaries for improperly discarding customer records in easily accessible trash cans. He also filed identity theft actions against CVS Pharmacy and RadioShack for improperly dumping customer records.

Attorney General Abbott also obtained temporary injunctions against CNG Financial Corporation, which operates Check ‘n Go stores across Texas, and Texas-based EZPAWN and EZMONEY Loan Services to improve their document disposal systems and protect their customers from identity theft.

Consumers who wish to file a complaint may contact the Office of the Attorney General at (800) 252-8011 or file a complaint online at www.oag.state.tx.us. Consumers can also obtain information on how to detect and prevent identity theft.

FOR OTHER ITEMS ASSOCIATED WITH ATTORNEY GENERAL ANNOUNCEMENTS, ACCESS OAG NEWS RELEASES ONLINE AT WWW.TEXASATTORNEYGENERAL.GOV.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 1, 2007
www.texasattorneygeneral.gov

CONTACT
Press Office at
(512) 463-2050

 

Texas Attorney General Takes Action Against National Health Spa Chain for Exposing Customer Records

Life Time Fitness cited for unlawfully dumping identifying information of adults, children

 

DALLAS – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott took legal action Tuesday against Minnesota-based Lifetime Fitness and its subsidiaries, LTF Club Management Company, L.L.C. and LTF Club Operations Company, Inc., for systematically exposing its customers to identity theft. According to documents filed by the Attorney General, Lifetime Fitness violated the law by repeatedly failing to protect customer records that contain sensitive personal information, including Social Security and credit card account numbers.

Investigators with the Office of the Attorney General discovered that several Life Time Fitness facilities in the Metroplex area exposed customers’ personal identifying information by discarding customer records in easily accessible trash cans behind the stores. According to investigators, the records included names, addresses, Social Security and driver’s license numbers, and credit and debit card information. Because the defendants offer child care and youth recreational facilities, the discarded documents also included names and dates of birth of several minors.

“Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States,” Attorney General Abbott said. “Texans expect their personal information to remain confidential. The Office of the Attorney General will take all necessary steps to protect consumers from identity thieves.”

The defendants are accused of violating the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA) and the 2005 Identity Theft Enforcement and Protection Act, which requires the safeguarding and proper destruction of clients’ sensitive personal information. Under the law, the Office of the Attorney General has the authority to seek penalties of up to $25,000 per violation of the DTPA and $50,000 per violation of the Identity Theft Enforcement and Protection Act.

The Attorney General also cited the defendants with violations of Chapter 35 of the Business and Commerce Code, which requires businesses to develop retention and disposal procedures for their clients’ personal information. The law provides for civil penalties of up to $500 for each abandoned record.

Today’s legal action also cites Life Time Fitness with unrelated violations of the Health Spa Act for operating several Texas locations without being registered with the Secretary of State. Under the Act, Lifetime Fitness can face penalties of up to $1,000 per violation.

The Office of the Attorney General is investigating whether any exposed data has been used illegally. Consumers who interacted with Life Time Fitness facilities should carefully monitor bank, credit card and any similar statements for evidence of suspicious activity. Customers should also obtain free copies of their credit reports.

Consumers who wish to file a complaint may contact the Office of the Attorney General at (800) 252-8011 or do so online at www.oag.state.tx.us, where they can also obtain information on identity theft detection and prevention.

FOR OTHER ITEMS ASSOCIATED WITH ATTORNEY GENERAL ANNOUNCEMENTS, ACCESS OAG NEWS RELEASES ONLINE AT WWW.TEXASATTORNEYGENERAL.GOV.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Knowledge of the law is an essential part to business success…

Shredding – Can you afford not to?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Document Destruction/Paper Shredding – Why it is important.

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The phrase document destruction brings up a vision of espionage; smoke filled rooms with people being interrogated, and corporate cloak and dagger activities. Document destruction is something that the government does or big business. Document destruction is not something that the ordinary, average person has to worry about, right?

 

Wrong. Personal information is at a premium these days. Identity theft is big business and having your identity stolen can radically alter your life. We’ve all heard stories of a friend of friend whose sister pretended to be her and took out a credit card in her name and ran up a big bill. But we’ve also heard stories of the person who went into the bank to withdraw money only to find out that all the money had been taken out of his account and someone with his name now owns a home on the Jersey Shore. Imagine the time and energy necessary to get yourself out of that mess?

 

Once we recognize that document shredding is the responsibility of each individual, we can take on the task and do it successfully with relatively little effort. Start with obtaining a good quality personal shredder. Do a little research on the types of shredders out there. Take some time to think about how you want to use your shredder. Are you going to be shredding multiple pages at one time? Are you going to be shredding a little bit every day or are you the type to have a marathon shredding session every few weeks? Do you have little children in the house for whom a shredder could be dangerous? Choose a shredder according to your needs. There are many different choices out there.

 

The next step is choosing which documents to destroy. Nobody wants to go overboard and start shredding everything, but take some time to look at the papers you usually recycle or wad up and throw in the trash. If the document has a your signature on it, it makes sense to shred it. If the document has any personal information on it at all, shred it. If the document has account information on it, whether it’s partial or complete, shred it. If you think that someone might possibly use the information on the document in any way, it makes sense to shred it. It is, in this instance, better to shred than be sorry later.

 

Once you’ve made the decision about which papers to shred, get to it. Shred often. Shred daily if you need to. Shred weekly. Make a pile that needs to be shredded and get your kids to shred it for you. But follow through. Destroy the documents. Completely.

 

Once the documents have been destroyed, dispose of them responsibly. Recycle the paper; don’t throw it away. It might make sense to you to bag the shredded paper separately so that you’re not recycling it all at the same time in the same place. That makes it harder for a thief to un-shred a document.

 

Document destruction is a fact of life for us now. It’s not just something exotic we see on TV or read about in the newspaper. It’s an important part of keeping our identities safe.

 

Shredding – Taking care of your business

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We’ve all read stories in the newspaper or heard stories on the news about the personal information of some people being compromised. Someone’s laptop was stolen and a database of personal information was on the hard drive. Someone else’s personal information was stolen from the database of a business. But it would seem that those thefts are the exception rather than the rule. Most identity theft we hear about tends to be individual. We hear about the woman whose mail was stolen from her mailbox and the thief applied for a credit card in her name. We hear about the neighbor whose house was broken into and his personal information was stolen and he is still trying to unravel the mess the thieves made of his financial life. Many people are now using a personal shredder as a way to protect themselves from individual identity theft.

 

Identity theft can occur on many different levels and there are many different ways to protect yourself, whether you’re an individual or a company. Whether you’ve got a small business or a large one, you’re going to be dealing with documents containing sensitive information. Proper storing and disposing of that that information is very important to the success of your business. When a business hires someone, personal, sensitive information is taken and stored. It is stored on paper in files and possibly it’s stored on a computer. Often the computer is backed up to an external hard drive or on disks. It’s important to safeguard that information as carefully as possible. All of this information needs to be taken care of in order to protect clients, employees, and yourself.

 

Most people are well aware of the dangers of identity theft in our society, but often people are careless with personal information, no matter how many times they’ve been warned or heard the stories. Individuals can choose to take a risk with their own information. But for a company, to have an information theft occur can mean the end of the business and many complications afterward.

 

Having a company policy about document shredding and disposal is very important. And often it makes sense to outsource the disposal of sensitive documents. Outsourcing can take away the risk of an individual employee making a mistake or cutting a corner. For a modest fee, a document shredding service can come on a regular basis and dispose of all your documents in a safe manner. This gives the business owner piece of mind that he can pass along to his customers. Many shredding services will also shred other storage devices such as CD’s and DVD’s. Many will shred hard drives as well. It pays to investigate these possibilities when choosing a shredding company.

 

Many business owners use document shredding services, such as Houston Shredding, as a selling point to their customers. The business owners realize that providing piece of mind to the clients is an important part of customer service. Having a reliable, reputable service to shred documents and dispose of them properly is good business.

 

Shredding Documents – A Way Of Life

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Shredding documents is becoming a way of life in our country today. It has practically become one of the litanies of phrases parents teach their children these days. “Look both ways before you cross the street.” “Don’t talk to strangers.” “Don’t open the front door to people you don’t know.” “Shred your documents.” Shredding is a precaution that we all must take these days in order to prevent ourselves from the very serious crime of identity theft. In a society where access is gained using PIN numbers and passwords and codes of different sorts, gaining access to someone’s personal information can be devastating for the victims. Lives are ruined due to identity theft. Taking every precaution to prevent that from happening is just as important as looking both ways before you cross the street.

 

So we’re taught to take precautions against identity theft and shred our documents. But what happens after the shredding takes place? Most people simply place the shredded documents in the paper recycling and think they’ve done enough. But that’s not necessarily the safest way to handle the shredded paper. Depending on the type of paper shredder used, the shreds have the possibility of being un-shredded. This is a process where a thief will take the shreds of paper and try to piece them back together again. There have been many examples of shredded documents being carefully reconstructed using the pieces from the trash. This is a time consuming process and a tedious process. Paper that has been shredded vertically and in long strips often can stick together in a form that looks nearly like parts of the original document. This can be un-shredded, although not easily,  and the information contained in the document can be used to recreate your identity. It is good to research the types of desk side shredders and to find a shredder that shreds completely and gets good user reviews. It is also a good idea to take the shredded document and dispose of it carefully. Recycle the pieces in separate bins or bags. Often it’s a good idea to take the shredded documents to the recycling center yourself and dispose of them in separate bins.

 

Another safe way to protect yourself from un-shredding is to use a document shredding service. Houston Shredding is one such service provider offering safe shredding and disposal of all documents. Document shredding services are often mobile and will come to your home to shred and dispose of your documents. The price of this is often offset by the piece of mind that comes from knowing your documents are shredded safely and disposed of securely.

 

It’s difficult to take every precaution to lead a safe and protected life. But there are ways to protect yourself from identity theft. Buy a confetti shredder. Use the shredder to shred your documents. Dispose of the documents carefully. And if you have questions or concerns, consult a professional document shredding company and use their services. It could save you a tremendous amount of time and money when it helps to protect your identity.

 

 

Worried about online theft? Think Paper Shredding…

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Worried about online theft? Think paper shredding

 

Identity theft is an ugly reality these days. It’s something that crosses most people’s minds on a daily basis in a variety of different ways. People question the security of the interactions they have on a daily basis. Is my online banking site secure? Should I access that banking site from the coffee shop using their unsecured network?  Is someone looking over my shoulder as I use my ATM card to withdraw some cash? When I bought that gift for my niece, was that site secure? People worry about safely moving through the world and the precautions we need to take to navigate that world safely change rapidly.

 

But here’s something to think about. All those cyber and computer transactions you worry about every day are NOT the basis for the majority of identity thefts. Online exchanges only about 9 percent of all identity thefts. What is the most common form of identity theft? Stealing paper documents and personal information.

 

So does it pay to be cautious and careful about where you plunk down your credit card information online? Yes. Should you type in your personal banking information using an unsecured network? Probably not the smartest thing for you to do. But the smartest thing you can do to protect yourself from identity theft is to take care of your paper documents. Call a Shredder and Shred them.

 

For a society that is trying to go paperless, there are still an awful lot of papers out there with our personal information on it. Receipts often have your name and credit card information on them. Bank statements have names and numbers that can be used to impersonate you. Your social security number can be found on a variety of different documents. Your children’s social security numbers can be found that way as well. These papers need to be safeguarded.

 

Many people tend to think that keeping papers in a file cabinet in their homes is keeping them safe.  That’s usually the case. But when thieves break into homes these days, they tend to take more than the big screen TV. They tend to take paper documents with personal information on them.

 

This is where a document shredder comes in. Every household should have a document shredder and everyone in that household should shred documents on a regular basis. Many people think it’s enough of a precaution to simply take the unwanted documents, such as junk mail solicitations for credit cards, and rip them in half or into quarters. A thief going the trash will have no trouble piecing that document back together and gathering your personal information. Paper shredding is a necessity these days.

 

Many people, in an effort to go paperless, are taking their documents and scanning them into their computers. When those documents are scanned, they should be shredded and then sent to the paper recycling.  This is the safest means of disposing of documents containing personal information.

 

Does it make sense to worry about online theft and to be cautious about how and where you give out your personal information? Of course. But be smart and safe about how your handle your personal documents as well. Chances are, not shredding those documents could cause you a great deal of trouble later if your identity is stolen.

 

Shred for a Sense of Security

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Everyone’s feeling a bit more vulnerable these days. The economy is uncertain; jobs are less secure. Times are tough and people are wondering what they can do to protect themselves from all sorts of disasters – losing a job, losing health insurance, losing the savings they spent their lives accumulating. Unfortunately, people need to protect themselves from crimes as well. Incidences of theft tend to occur more often during tough economic times. And in our society today, that can mean identity theft.

 

How do people protect themselves in tough economic times? People have stopped spending as freely, only plunking down cash for things they really need. Luxury items will have to wait for better economic times. With people worried about job security and how to meet monthly bills, anxiety levels are elevating. What can be done to help alleviate that anxiety?

 

It’s always good, when feeling vulnerable, to take some steps to help yourself feel more protected. When facing the prospect of identity theft, it’s easy to blame the electronic age. People tend to think that most identity theft happens online – on your computer, with your bank, buying things with a credit card online. But the reality is that the most common form of identity theft happens the old fashioned way. Thieves go through your trash and your paper recycling. What are they looking for? Paper documents containing your personal and private information. These could be bank statements, credit card statements, and receipts from purchases. Thieves are looking for any pieces of information they can find to put together a profile of your personal information.

 

So if you’re trying to protect yourself from identity theft, what’s the best precaution to take? Experts will tell you that the best way to protect yourself is to shred your personal information. Shred your bank statements. Shred your credit card receipts. Shred your old documents, such as tax documents you no longer need, before they leave your possession.  A personal shredder is well worth the investment because it returns peace of mind. Using a document shredder on a regular basis means you are taking a giant step towards protecting yourself from having your identity stolen. Shredding is a proactive step, just like locking your car door or installing an alarm system.

 

What do you do if your intentions are good but your follow through needs work? There are those of us who, while we mean to do it, get behind on our document shredding. Facing an enormous pile of documents needing to be shredded can be an anxiety-producing situation. It’s always tempting to simply put the documents in the paper recycling or the trash and hope for the best. A better solution, and one that will help you sleep better at night, is to hire a paper shredding company. Many document shredding companies offer occasional services and can meet your needs for a one time shredding visit. You can also schedule shredding services on a regular basis.

 

When facing economic times that make you feel out of control, it’s a good feeling to be proactive and to know that you’re taking all the steps you can to protect yourself from identity theft. Shredding documents in a timely and safe fashion, and often trusting that task to the experts, is a great way to feel more protected.

A Scary Story About Document Destruction

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Don’t think you need to shred?

Read this story from one of our customers.

My mother was used to throwing our trash away in the trash cans outside our house, which then got tossed into the ubiquitous garbage dumpster on Monday morning when the trash man came. No one ever thought someone would actually go through the trash cans. It was a nice neighborhood. We weren’t throwing away anything special. And after all, why would she need to destroy anything before throwing it away? We had nothing to hide.

Okay, so maybe you were thinking about shredding your junk mail in 1996, but we weren’t. For it’s worth, I wasn’t even of legal drinking age at the time. Nor was I responsible for taking out the trash. But that’s not the point. The point is that someone went through our trash sometime in the summer of 1996, and wreaked havoc on my family’s credit and good name, not to mention finances.

Yes, it turns out whoever went through our trash was able to piece together enough information about our family to apply for a mortage, have their apartment heated and well-lit, get cable and internet, and go on quite the shopping sprees at both Macy’s and Nordstrom’s. This went on for a year. We didn’t find out until the fall of 1997 when a bill collector called. I answered the phone.

shredding.jpgMe: “Hello, Miller residence.”

Caller: “Yes, we’re looking to speak with Joanna Miller please regarding an important business matter.”

Me: “Sure, may I ask who’s calling please?”

Caller: “CR Solutions.”

Me: “Um, may I ask what this is regarding?”

Caller: “We need to speak with Joanna Miller please, is she available?”

My mother always told me to get a name and reason for the call before passing along any calls to her or anyone in the family, but it was clear this guy wasn’t going to budge. It sounded suspicious and I had a bad feeling in my stomach when I ran upstairs to let my mom know someone was on the line. When my mom came down to take the call, she seemed confused, and a tad bit concerned. The look on her face said “Who could this be?” as she picked up the receiver, and I sat there in the kitchen the entire time, curious to find out just who in the world this suspicious man was and why he was calling for my mother.

Mom: “A Macy’s card? Good lord, what?? I don’t have a Macy’s card. You must have the wrong number.”

Caller: “No, ma’am, we have the right number. And you now owe $2000.00 plus $686.00 in late fees and charges, due immediately.”

Mom: “There’s no way. I don’t have a Macy’s account. Who did you say is calling?”

According to my mom, the mysterious man on the other end of the line then confirmed her social security number, home address, prior address, and maiden name. I watched my mom’s face turn white and she hung up the phone with a dazed look of confusion on her face.

Needless to say, my family’s identity had been stolen. The thieves had managed to gather my mother and father’s social security numbers, along with our address and other key pieces of information about our family from our trash. And we never had a clue until the day we received the call from the collection agency.

My parents wised up, after a little investigation, a review of their credit report, a couple hundred hours, an attorney, and several thousand dollars. The thieves were eventually caught. My parents started using a shredder to destroy anything that contained personally identifiable information before throwing away.

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America. Don’t become a victim. Check your credit report regularly, be careful with whom you share social security and account numbers, and shred ANY documents that contain personal info before tossing them into the trash. If you live in the Houston area, check out Shredding Houston, a Houston-based recycling service that comes to your residence or business and picks up your shredding, at your convenience, and destroys it securely. Find out how Shredding Houston can help protect your identity and good name by taking care of your shredding.

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