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Security: A New Year’s Resolution

After the whirlwind of celebrations took us for a ride this past holiday, it’s nice to know that we have a little bit of time to recover at the start of the New Year. The crew at Absolute Destruction, the document destruction services in your area, would like to take this moment of calm to welcome you back to the blog! It’s with warm sincerity that we wish all the best in 2018 for you and yours.

After a year like 2017, we can appreciate how necessary this downtime is for our mental health, but don’t revel in relaxation for too long before you tackle the New Year. Though you may be tempted to see how long you can stay in your blanket burrito as you binge-watch the Alias Grace mini-series, this is a special time of year that shouldn’t go ignored!

The New Year is an opportunity to put the past behind us and embark on the next twelve months with enthusiasm — once we get over our post-holiday blues, of course! (See our upcoming guide to beat just that later this month). After some much-needed R&R, it’s easy to feel optimistic about the year ahead, especially as we frame it with the healthy changes we want to make in our lives.

New Year’s Resolutions: they’re every bit a tradition as singing Old Lang Syne at the stroke of midnight. Many of us prioritize our weight and fitness as we arrive on the other side of the holidays with our waistlines showing the evidence of our overindulgences in sweets and leftovers. Others will look to their finances as they realize just how much they spent on the holidays.

From our perspective behind our paper shredders in Richmond Hill and the rest of the GTA, security gets the highest priority. Experts say everyone will be a victim of identity theft at least once in their lifetime, and it’s easy to accept this factoid as true when you consider the number of commercial security breaches that happened in last year — many of which our blog covered as these cases unfolded in the public eye.

The good news is, with the right defence, you can avoid becoming a victim of identity theft — even when this crime is at an all-time high. The sharp blades of our mobile shredding trucks can’t help you get shredded like a superhero, but they can keep you safe from a potential attack from a criminal fraudster. Every truck in our fleet meets NAID (National Association for Information Destruction) standards, so it’s one of the few ways you can permanently destroy documents and electronic data.

For the last 16 years, these trucks have let us service Toronto and the GTA with reliable document destruction for businesses and individuals alike. With one-time purges and regular pick-ups available, you can join our customers and experience the benefit of superior document destruction.

If you have room for one more goal on your list of New Year’s Resolutions, make it security. As the threats of identity theft increase each year, you need to start thinking about how you can protect your personal information. So give us a call once you catch your breath this January, and together we’ll make 2018 the most secure year yet!

Add comment January 29th, 2018

We Weigh In On The Top Antivirus Apps For Your Android

Mobile Antivirus Protection: Is It Worth It?

If you watched the last American election unfold, then you’re aware of the email scandal surrounding Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Amongst a variety of other reasons, she may have lost the election (but not the popular vote) because of her use of an unsecured mobile phone and private email server. It was one of the main issues Trump used to disparage Clinton during his campaign.

It’s funny how things have come full circle.

Not even a full month into his presidency, Trump is still using his personal Android when tweeting from his personal account, and recent reports have revealed he secured his @POTUS account with a Gmail address. Meanwhile, Sean Spicer, the White House Press Secretary and Communications Director, managed to tweet his Twitter password not once but twice.

In a world where some of the most powerful men risk security breaches, we can all appreciate the value of mobile security. We may not be the leader of the free nation, but the behaviours we indulge in on our own, less important iPhones and Androids can still result in severe consequences.

Back in November, we discussed Symantec’s Honey Stick Project, an experiment to see how quickly unsecured smartphones are found and breached. The results were staggering. Those mobiles that didn’t have any password were accessed within three-quarters of an hour, exposing personal information (like photos, banking, and social media apps) and corporate data.

But most of us understand the need for PINs on our cellphones in case we misplace them in public. It’s how we use our smartphones online that’s earning attention. As more and more malware are targeting these devices, your Android is susceptible to viruses that could expose your personal information. Google Play has seen an increase in the number of malware-affected apps on its servers. The question becomes whether or not mobile anti-virus protection services are worth it.

According to Chris DiBona, Google’s Open Source Programs Manager, these anti-virus protection services are as predatory as those malicious apps. A virus operates differently from those corrupting our Macs or Windows computers. Online security issues with our phones tend to come from malicious apps that phish for personal data — apps that you have to choose to buy and install. Smart use of your smartphone is a far better form of prevention than any anti-virus program claiming to protect your data.

As our smartphones evolve, this may change. Our Android has replaced our wallets, contact books, and photo albums, making them a huge target for those looking to extort your personal information. Until their methods of snagging this info changes, your best bet would be to:

  • Investigate apps thoroughly before you download them
  • Only download apps from trusted sources
  • Lock your cell phone with a password
  • Equip your corporate phone with a remote wiping service in case of theft
  • Use our secure electronic data destruction services when you’re ready to upgrade

By following each step, you’re increasing your chances of keeping personal or corporate information safe on your mobile. Ultimately, it’s up to you how elaborate you want to go in order to protect yourself, but it’s safe to say you won’t need mobile anti-virus protection for the time being. Just take this advice into consideration and use your smartphone with discretion, and remember to call us the next time you decide to upgrade. 

Add comment February 21st, 2017

Synthetic Identity Theft & Its Very Real Consequences

We know how it sounds. How can synthetic identity theft pose a genuine concern for Canadian citizens if it isn’t real? Well, for one thing, it’s not as artificial as its name implies. Synthetic identity theft uses a mixture of authentic and fabricated information to create a completely new identity or — in some cases — even multiple identities.  Unfortunately, fraudsters using this technique typically target those who have a small credit footprint, like children and the deceased, pairing their Social Insurance Numbers (SIN) with fake names, addresses, and other details. This fusion of real and false information makes it difficult to track and even easier for criminals to get fake licences, passports, and credit card accounts — which is why we here at Absolute Destruction think it’s necessary to shine a spotlight on this emerging crime.

Children, the deceased, and anyone lacking an established credit history are at risk of becoming a victim. Synthetic fraudsters target these individuals on purpose. When the genuine identity associated with a SIN has little to no credit, it also means they likely have a thin or non-existent file in the financial world. As a result, it’s incredibly easy to open accounts with these numbers, as the owners are unlikely to check their credit reports and there aren’t any security checks put in place to safeguard against fraud.  They’re a blank slate waiting to be taken advantage of.

This tabula rasa creates the ideal opportunity for criminals. Using a real SIN and a fake name, they apply for a credit card. Though this initial application is more than likely denied, the process forces credit bureaus to acknowledge both the enquiry and the “person” behind the application. The fraudster has begun to create their own credit history that will make them more desirable by other organizations in the future.  Eventually, they’ll be able to open multiple accounts with various institutions and fabricate what looks like a strong borrowing history on paper. With that, they can visit Service Canada to create licences and passports under fake names. In the long term, a criminal will use this established identity to open and maintain accounts with higher borrowing limits before maxing them out.

Here in Toronto, it’s a growing concern for the police. In fact, Detective Constable Mike Kelly calls the fraud ‘infinite mischief’ since criminals will encounter very few limits to their scam when using a mixture of real and fabricated information. In 2013, Equifax, a consumer credit reporting agency, estimated there were no more than 200 investigations of synthetic identity theft each month. Now they estimate that number has skyrocketed into the thousands, potentially costing Canadians a billion dollars each year.

The solution to this scam, like so many other cons, is simple: keep personal information protected. Your SIN should never leave the house, nor should it ever be shared with anyone but a trusted employer, financial institution, or the government. The same goes for your children’s or a lost loved one’s information. When you’re ready to dispose of any document that records this number or any other piece of personal information — whether it’s your own or a loved one’s — make sure it’s disposed of properly with our mobile shredders. We’ll make sure it’s incinerated so no criminal can retrieve your confidential information.

Synthetic though it may be, this method of identity theft has very real consequences for its victims. Make sure you protect yourself with safe handling of your SIN and personal information. When in doubt, give us a call to dispose of your documents.

Add comment January 30th, 2017

A Gentle Reminder about Mail Fraud

A week rarely goes by without some news agency reporting the discovery of an identity theft ring. Usually, these articles hail from somewhere in the United States — a country with a population roughly 9 times that of Canada and a rate of identity theft that’s suitably much larger than our own. But every so often, we’ll read up on a local story, reminding us that identity theft is still very much an issue that knows no boundaries. Toronto and the GTA are no less immune to fraud as anywhere else in the world if people fail to undertake preventative measures to protect their personal information.

Case in point: the CBC reported on a large fraud and identity theft ring based out of Toronto. Back in June, the main suspect was a 44-year-old man who was wanted for 181 charges, including counts of impersonation, forgery, counterfeit, and selling identities in addition to fraud and identity theft. The June bust uncovered multiple birth certificates, driver’s licences, credit cards, and other I.D. using genuine personal information partnered with the accused’s picture. Detectives of the Toronto Police Service’s Fraud Division say these identification cards were then used to open accounts at banks, payday loan lenders, and other financials organizations under other people’s names.

How was he able to pull off such a successful incidence of fraud? For one thing, the police say he wasn’t working alone. For another, he stole mail in order to find the personal information from those robbed of their identities. He then redirected any notices from these false accounts to a new address, so his victims were blissfully unaware of any suspicious activity.

While under the constant threat of Canada Post’s strike, you may have given up physical mail for good, yet even those who have embraced e-mail and e-bills with equal aplomb will receive various pieces of mail that contain private information. These letters, bills, and other documents are exactly the kind of material that the accused fraudster used to open his many false accounts.

Your mailbox doesn’t have to be an easy target. Some tips to keep your mail private include:

  • Checking for mail regularly and keeping your mailbox clear;
  • Making sure your mailbox is locked, if possible;
  • Knowing when you’re expecting government issued documents, including licence renewals, tax information, and cheques; and
  • Keeping track of physical communications from financial institutions, knowing when new credit and debit cards are to arrive.

When you know the approximate arrival time of important documents and identification, you’ll realize these items are late or missing entirely faster than if you didn’t. As soon as something like a credit card or licence fails to reach your home within the specified time, it’s important to notify these financial organizations or government departments of your issue. Alternatively, should you receive any notification welcoming you as a new customer to an account or organization you have had no contact with previously, this may be a red flag of fraud.

As for the physical evidence left behind by these delivered documents, our regular readers will know our policy. Any piece of mail that contains contact information, account numbers, tax information, or your Social Insurance Number must never find its way into your garbage or recycling bin. Just like your mailbox, these containers are prime targets for those fraudsters searching for easy information to steal, defraud, and sell. The only way to guarantee your personal information is protected — even when you have no need of it — is through our secure shredding services. With mobile shredders that have the National Association for Information Destruction’s seal of approval, we can incinerate all of your paper and digital documents for good.

With a keen eye towards your mailbox, an understanding of your finances, and a regular appointment with our mobile shredders, you don’t have to worry about mail fraud or identity theft. Let’s keep Toronto and the GTA out of the news. Call us so we can work together to keep your personal information protected.

Add comment September 14th, 2016

Identity Theft: What to Do When it Happens

Despite it being our mission to provide document destruction services to everyone in the GTA, we simply can’t help everyone. Misinformation is our biggest hurdle. People simply aren’t aware that they need to protect their personal information (PI) when they dispose of it. Without knowing any better, they can accidentally share private details by throwing out files and obsolete electronics. It doesn’t always result in identity theft or fraud. But all it takes is for the right person to find your information before you’re dealing with the personal and financial consequences of a breach of PI.

Until we get the word out to all of the GTA and change everyone’s disposal methods, identity theft will happen. When it does, it’s in your best interest to start the recovery process as soon as you’ve realized it’s happened. It’s more frustrating and time consuming than you’d think, which is why we’ve developed a convenient guide on what to do should you suspect your PI has been stolen.

Make a Report
Your number one priority is to alert the authorities about the theft. This is an essential step should you ever need to prove to any financial institutions or creditors that a crime has been committed, so be sure to file a report right away. Once you’ve made your report, you can contact your bank and other financial organizations. Chances are your bank has already noticed unusual activity on your account, as they’ve created special algorithms to analyze your buying patterns. If they haven’t noticed any suspicious activity, you’ll want to clarify which purchases were made without your authorization. They’ll also be able to cancel any credit card accounts that have been compromised before flagging your account.

Notify the Government
Once you’ve alerted the authorities and banks about the situation, you’ll have prevented any more additional charges from being made in your name; however, you shouldn’t stop there. If your Social Insurance Number (SIN) was involved in the breach, your name may be used to create fraudulent identities. It’s important that you get in touch with Service Canada to inform them of your stolen PI. They’ll be able to reissue both federal and provincial identification, like your Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) card and your SIN card. Often identity thieves will open up credit accounts under your name and have the cards sent to a new address. We suggest alerting Canada Post about your situation too and making a formal address update to ensure no mail is redirected inappropriately.

Speak with a Credit Bureau
Your next step is to monitor your credit. You can work in conjunction with one of the country’s top crediting bureaus (such as Equifax, for example) to examine your ongoing credit activity. With their help, you’ll be able to see any additional fraudulent accounts open in your name that you weren’t aware of. We also recommend you apply a fraud warning on your account. This flag will stay on your account for six years, and it will warn lenders that your poor credit score is due to fraud.

It may take some time to get through this entire list. It may also take a lot of will power to work with the various organizations, creditors, and institutions necessary to flag, cancel, and monitor your accounts. Comparatively, the effort it takes to prevent identity theft is negligible. You only need to pick up the phone and speak with one of our representatives to schedule an appointment . Our mobile shredders will arrive at your house or place of business, where we’ll destroy your files and electronics using the latest NAID-approved techniques. Our shredders are equipped with sharp, complex blades that can completely demolish the paper and devices that hold your PI. Thieves wouldn’t be able to retrieve this information even if given the opportunity to go through this waste. Of course, they won’t because we immediately deliver these items to a secure recycling facility.

When you schedule our document destruction services, you remove the opportunity for thieves to come across and use your PI. So think about how you dispose of your paper and electronics. If they store confidential information like your contact details, account numbers, passwords, and other financial material, they can’t be thrown out with the rest of the trash. They need the guarantee of destruction that only we can provide.

Add comment August 22nd, 2016

Stay on top of Changes to the Personal Health Information Protection Act

Over two months ago, the Ontario legislature passed a third reading of the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA). It resulted in amendments meant to improve the accountability and transparency of the healthcare system, including changes to the penalties for privacy breaches. Anyone working in the healthcare industry would do well by reviewing these revisions, ensuring their method of collecting, storing, and disposing of Personal Health Information (PHI) is within accordance to the amended act.

PHIPA is still a relatively young bill, having only been introduced in May of 2004. Since then, it has regulated the way healthcare workers can collect, use, disclose, and dispose of PHI. Under this bill, PHI means any data as it relates to a patient’s past, current, or future medical files. It’s an umbrella term that encompasses a considerable amount of information. PHI is deemed anything used by a healthcare worker to identify or treat a patient, including family medical histories, prescriptions, hospital records, and lab test results.

The original bill outlined clear strategies on how to collect and record PHI. Physical files should be locked in filing cabinets in rooms with restricted access, while digital records should be protected by passwords, encryption, and firewalls. Only those who have been properly trained and authorized to handle these documents should have access to the rooms and computers used to store them. Once obsolete, these records follow similarly controlled methods of disposal. In order to protect outdated and unnecessary PHI, PHIPA requires the complete and utter destruction of both physical and digital copies.

These basic features of PHIPA have not changed in the latest reading, but the minor modifications have improved the transparency of the bill in hopes of strengthening patient privacy. Firstly, it’s now mandatory for healthcare organizations to report any breaches of privacy to the Information and Privacy Commissioner. Changes also include removing time restrictions on prosecutions, eliminating the need to start prosecutions within 6 months of the breach. Perhaps the most important amendment – from healthcare professionals’ perspectives – is the increase in fines for those individuals and organizations found guilty of breaking PHIPA. Nearly doubling in amount, these penalties can range from $50,000 – $100,000 for individuals and $250,000 – $500,000 for organizations or businesses.

It would be a shame to be fined half a million dollars over something so easily preventable. Employee screening and training is a critical step in safeguarding the chain of custody and shouldn’t be overlooked. Neither should mobile shredding services. Simply by scheduling regular pickups of paper medical files and obsolete electronics, the healthcare industry can avoid disposing of PHI incorrectly, saving themselves from prosecution and hefty fines.

Our shredding services are performed by highly vetted individuals, who follow NAID-certified processes to ensure security at every stage. From collection to destruction and finally recycling, the documents and devices are properly secured until our shredding representatives can provide twin guarantees of destruction and recycling.

PHIPA applies to far more professionals than just healthcare providers like doctors and nurses. Anyone working within the industry must abide by this law, including freelance caregivers, pharmacists, lab technicians, paramedics, physiotherapists, naturopaths, and mental health care workers. That’s a huge range of professionals who need help ensuring they stay within the letter of the law. Whether you’re a self-employed massage therapist or a director of a medical laboratory, your business needs professional shredding services. Luckily for you, we service the entire healthcare industry with dependable shredding, and you need only call or send off a request form to schedule your first appointment.

Add comment July 25th, 2016

Spring Cleaning – the Safe Way

Spring has officially sprung in the GTA, and we’re welcoming it with open arms. Though this past winter was unseasonably warm, it was still too cold for our liking. Now that the days are longer and the temperatures are finally in the double digits, many of us are swinging open the windows and letting that warm breeze flow through our homes.  The fresh air will certainly aid in clearing out winter’s bad humours, especially as you start your annual spring cleaning. As you move through your rooms, remember that your home office requires a more discerning cleaning routine than the rest of your house. It’s home to personal and confidential information, so you need to clean, de-clutter, and organize your office with care.

If it’s been awhile since your last clean through, your office can be quite the challenge this April. Utility bills, financial statements, records, receipts, tax refunds, and other miscellaneous documents can take up space on every flat surface, and these towering stacks of paper make your task daunting. You may be tempted to sweep all of these files into an awaiting recycling bin to save on time and stress, but we wouldn’t recommend you do that. Without reviewing their content first before you throw these papers out, you could be setting yourself up for financial mistakes and identity theft.

While some of the receipts you kept out of obligation can see the inside of your recycling bin without any risks, there are other documents that should never be thrown outperiod. The original copies of your birth certificate, will, marriage license, and mortgage should be taken from these piles and filed away in a cabinet or desk drawer. You should also keep a hold of car titles, life and auto insurances, investments, and pension plans, taking efforts to file them away with labels so you know where to look when you next want to review them.

Next up are those documents that you need to keep but only for a little while. As we mentioned last month, the Canadian Revenue Agency requires you to retain your old tax returns and any supporting documents for 6 years after you file. The CRA reserves the right to review any return within those 6 years, and if they do, they will request to see any associated paperwork. Should your file be audited and you can’t provide these documents, the CRA may fine you for filing a false statement. Being reviewed and finding out you need to pay a fine because of your poor bookkeeping doesn’t feel good. Avoid the stress of owing the CRA by keeping your tax refunds organized properly for the appropriate time frame.

Once you clear your desk free of the “keepers”, it’s time to turn your eye towards what you need to discard. Some of these documents should never leave your office in an average garbage or recycling container. Those tax returns that exceed 6 years, as well as credit and bank statements, prescriptions, bills, and any other file that shows important contact or account information should never be thrown out with the rest of your recycling. Thieves target residential recycling and garbage bins to find these kinds of documents, as the confidential information they hold can be used to open up fraudulent accounts.

According to idAlerts Canada, the average victim of identity theft ends up paying $2,000 out of pocket to recover from these thefts. Being liable for expenses you didn’t make feels a lot worse than owing the CRA. To make sure you never have to pay for charges made in your name, let us help you with your spring cleaning. Our one-time purge document destruction service can ensure any file you wish to discard is incinerated entirely within our mobile shredders. We’ll even give you a “Certificate of Destruction” as proof that our shredding services will make it impossible for criminals to retrieve your information! So give us a call as you embrace your spring cleaning schedule.

Add comment April 21st, 2016

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