BBB helps businesses and consumers de-clutter safely
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
APRIL 20, 2017 - CALGARY, ALBERTA - Did you know identity theft cost Canadians $11 million last year?* Tax time isn't just for sorting out your financial records, but also a chance for you to tackle that paper pile cluttering your home or work desk. With Secure Your ID Day coming up on Saturday, BBB is helping businesses and consumers get rid of that over-stuffed shoe-box while protecting sensitive records.
Mary O'Sullivan-Andersen, president and CEO of BBB Serving Southern Alberta and East Kootenay, says getting rid of your piles of papers doesn't mean tossing out responsible data-management practices.
"Storing information digitally will reduce household clutter, but it is crucial to maintain safe storage strategies," she says. "People should decide what backup methods best suit their needs and secure their data accordingly. People should make it as difficult as possible for fraudsters to access their information."
What kinds of personal records should you keep, and for how long?
A general rule of thumb is to keep most personal records for seven years, while other records should be kept permanently. Here's what you should keep:
- Accounts payable and receivable ledgers and schedules
- Audit reports - Permanently
- Cash books - Permanently
- Contracts, mortgages, notes and leases (expired and still in effect) - Permanently
- Financial statements (year-end, other optional) - Permanently
- Internal audit reports
- Inventories of products, materials, and supplies
- Invoices (to customers, from vendors)
- Minute books of directors, stockholders, bylaws and charter - Permanently
- Patents and related papers - Permanently
- Payroll records and summaries
- Sales commission reports
- Sales records
- Trademark registrations and copyrights - Permanently
- Training manuals - Permanently
- Audit reports - Permanently
- Bank statements
- Charts of accounts - Permanently
- Contracts, mortgages, notes, and leases (expired)
- Contracts, mortgages, notes, and leases (still in effect) - Permanently
- Correspondence (legal and important matters) - Permanently
- Deeds, mortgages, and bills of sale - Permanently
- Financial statements - Permanently
- Insurance policies
- Insurance records, current accident reports, claims, policies, etc - Permanently
- Property records - Permanently
- Retirement and pension records - Permanently
- Stocks and bonds certificates (canceled)
- Tax returns and worksheets, revenue agents' reports, and other documents relating to determination of income tax liability - Permanently
Now you know what you should keep, but how do you store and protect your information?
- Use a portable device to backup your data. Use a portable hard-drive or other storage device to keep duplicates of your information and records. That way if your computer crashes, is stolen or becomes infected with malware, you won't lose all of your information.
- Know the difference between Cloud storage and online backup. Cloud storage is typically used to backup specific files on the Internet that you can also share with others. Online backup is used to backup your entire computer or device so you can easily restore these files while allowing you to keep your file structure.
- Choose cloud backup methods wisely. Understand the provider's security provisions and what they mean for your needs and information. Verify the supplier is providing a legitimate service by researching the organization and asking trusted individuals about their data-backup methods.
- Use device-specific backup methods. Certain digital storage systems are only compatible with certain devices (i.e. Mac or PC). Be sure to stick with methods designed for your devices to ensure secure, reliable data storage.
- Update your software. Your computer should have the latest anti-virus software installed, along with a secure and activated firewall.
- Set strict privacy settings. Consider restricting access on social network profiles to only friends or family, or people you know. Avoid connecting with people you are unfamiliar with on social media sites and limit who you grant access to your information.
- Set strong passwords. Make sure all passwords including online banking, social media accounts and emails are difficult to guess. Change your password about every three months to keep fraudsters at bay. Do not use popular passwords (i.e. names of family members, birth-dates, phone numbers or "1234").
How to safely dispose of unwanted, confidential information and materials:
*BBB releases Top 10 Scams of 2016
- Shred it. Shredding old documents is a safe and secure way to dispose of unwanted personal information as it reduces the risk of identity thieves being able to get their hands on your information, or tape/re-construct anything back together.
- Don't throw it away. Simply throwing away your old documents means strangers can easily access and sift through your garbage bin, or garbage debris at dump or landfill sites. Even if you cut-up old credit cards and other materials, it can be taped back together and your information can still be used online without your knowledge.
- Recycle old electronics safely. If you want to get rid of old hard-drives, computers, cell phones or other electronics, first ensure that all of your personal information is "wiped" from the devices and securely backed up. Then you can search for electronic recycling facilities which will ensure safe disposal of your devices while also protecting the environment.
Leah Brownridge, Media and Corporate Communications Specialist
Better Business Bureau Serving Southern Alberta and East Kootenay
For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2016, people turned to BBB more than 167 million times for BBB Business Reviews on more than 5.2 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. There are local,independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Southern Alberta and East Kootenay, which was founded in 1954 and garners more than one million instances of service annually.
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