NATURAL RESOURCES MAGAZINE
           
 

The Water Cooler

Paper trail
Businesses must take special care of their customer’s personal information–or else

The Better Business Bureau for Atlantic Canada hopes a shred-a-thon held in St. John’s this past March will make more businesses wise up about properly storing and disposing of personal information. wc_papertrailB

The event resulted in about 70 cubic feet of paper being collected and shredded on site. But the real purpose was to create awareness about the issue. Better Business Bureau for Atlantic Canada’s president and CEO Peter Moorhouse says any document that contains an individual’s personal information is valuable to thieves. This includes invoices that contain personal or financial information, credit card receipts and statements, bank statements and old tax returns.Peter Moorhouse says businesses can be held legally and financially responsible if it’s found they were negligent in handling customers’ personal information

“That’s information a thief can cobble together to build a false profile and all of sudden a customer has their identity compromised,” he says.

For the person unlucky enough to have that happen to them due to shoddy practices like disposing of these documents in the garbage or recycling containers, the results can be unpleasant. Moorhouse says the information can be used to make purchases, apply for loans and steal identities.

And that’s why businesses can’t be cavalier about this. Moorhouse says they can be held legally and financially responsible if it’s found they were negligent in handling customers’ personal information. In 2014, U.S.-based retail giant Target revealed as many as 70 million people may have been affected by a data breach where personal information (names, mailing addresses, phone numbers and email addresses) was stolen.

The breach lead to a class action lawsuit that saw Target pay $10 million in damages to affected customers. But beyond the financial implications, a company’s reputation can be irreparably harmed in these situations. “When this happens it tarnishes your brand and it requires a lot of effort to regain your customer’s trust if you can regain it at all.”

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