Better Business Bureau: Take steps to protect your personal data

October 3, 2013 

The company official slipped Ron Houston, of Boise, an application that included a background screening authorization form.

The form asked for all the requisite details needed to steal a person’s identity: name, address, driver’s license number, date of birth, and Social Security.

“I’ve done a few job applications in my lifetime,” says Houston. “I even did one this complete for HP, when I worked there, but this seemed a bit extreme.”

Background checks, while becoming more common, can't be done without the applicant’s permission. In addition, if an employer chooses not to hire an applicant because of information in the background check, they're required to tell the job seeker and give the report preparer’s name. Job seekers can get a free copy of the report as well, under the law.

“I did a lengthy interview by phone, and, of course, filled out everything they asked me to,” he says. “And, now I’m hoping I didn’t lose my identity.”

Keeping Houston’s information secure is part of a company’s responsibility. There are penalties and fines should the information leak out. Identity theft is an enormous problem, but there are a number of steps you can take to secure your personal information.

BBB encourages people to ask questions of those who collect their personal information. Don’t be intimidated into saying no when someone asks for it — even when it comes to a job application.

Over half of identity theft victims can trace the theft to something that was stolen from their possession.

A good deal of identity theft happens by thieves going through trash barrels or dumpsters. Even the smallest business can afford an inexpensive paper shredder. Make sure you use yours to destroy customer or employee records.

So here’s the first rule: If you don’t need it, shred it — responsibly. Better Business Bureau is urging businesses and residents alike to take advantage of BBB’s Secure Your ID Day featuring free, on-site shredding from 10 a.m. to noon Oct. 19 at College of Western Idaho, Micron Center for Professional Technical Education, 5725 E. Franklin Road, Nampa.

Businesses, do you know how to protect your customers’ data and privacy? Learn everything you need to know with BBB’s “Data Security — Made Simpler" at www.bbb.org/data-security/

More than 40 BBBs nationwide offer free, on-site shredding to consumers and businesses on this day. Don’t know what to shred and what to keep?

Here’s a quick run-down:

• Keep for three years: bank statements, expired insurance policies, employment applications, and more

• Keep for seven years: invoices, canceled stock certificates, payroll records, withholding statements, and more

• Keep permanently: deeds, mortgages, tax returns, audit reports, insurance records, legal correspondence, property records, and more

Check out our full Records Retention Schedule online for more details.

Robb Hicken: 947-2115

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