5 Steps to Protect Your Identity

As the owner of a small business, you control many documents that could expose your identity and many more that could expose the identities of your customers, your business partners and product providers. You have the responsibility to manage these documents properly.

1: Safeguard Long-Term Records
There are a few essential documents that establish the legality and legitimacy of your business. You can keep copies of these on hand if necessary, but originals should be kept in a locked, fireproof safe. Access to this safe should be limited to essential personnel only, including your spouse, business partners, and/or heir.

2: Secure Mid-Term Records
The law requires you to maintain certain records on the premise for a specified length of time, including: financial records, safety records, inspection results, and employment records. These documents should be kept in locked file cabinets with limited access. Select employees should have access as required by the needs of your business, but the number should be limited and a lock should be used. The documents you need to maintain and the length of time you need to maintain them will vary depending on the nature of your business.

3: Shield Short-Term Records
As a function of your business, there are records and documents you will produce on a regular basis that must be maintained for a short period of time. Work orders and shipping receipts are good examples. These records should be kept in a monitored area because they need to be accessed by employees, but they also include identifying information. Ideally, monitoring should include in-person attendance as well as security camera monitoring. These records should be sorted daily. Those records that must be kept should be secured as mid-term records. Those that do not need to be kept should be discarded.

4: Shred Disposable Documents Daily
After short-term records have been sorted, you should have a stack of documents that should be discarded. These documents may include personal identification information, even if they do not need to be kept. All of these records should be shredded to maintain the security of personal or professional identifying information.

5: Shred Disposable Records Monthly
Mid-term records should be cycled out on a monthly basis. This prevents wasting space to store documents that are no longer necessary. These documents contain sensitive information and should be shredded immediately, and shredded document material can be recycled. If you take these precautions, you can limit the opportunity others have to misuse sensitive information involved in the practice of your business. It takes time, but it’s worth it to know that you’ve done everything you can to protect yourself, your employees, and your customers.

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