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Lack Of Document Disposal Policy Puts SMEs At Risk Of Corporate ID Fraud


Less than half of UK SMEs have a policy in place to ensure the correct disposal of sensitive information and many are worryingly unaware or up-to-date with the Data Protection Legislation, according to research by Coleman Parkes, commissioned by Fellowes, leading manufacturer of personal and office shredders.

56% of the UK’s 3.9 million SMEs do not have a fully documented policy for the secure disposal of key information and an alarming 14% have no policy in place at all.

Stephen Alambritis, Federation of Small Businesses Chief Spokesperson, said: "Small business owners must do two full time jobs – run their firm and also comply with ever increasing regulations and red tape. With so much to do and so little time to do it the tasks of securing confidential information and implementing a formal document disposal policy can end up on a busy owner or manager’s To Do list. However, it is worth remembering that invoices, bank statements and even headed paper can all be used for fraudulent means if they get into the wrong hands. Systematically shredding all unwanted documents will dramatically decrease a small firms exposure to corporate fraud and identity theft.”

Despite the lack of formal procedures put in place by UK SMEs 49% of people questioned believe that identity fraud is on the increase and over half of respondents feel credit card crime is set to become more prevalent.

Tyron Hill, Senior European Product Manager from Fellowes, comments: “The  ideal of the paperless office has yet to become a reality. In fact, it seems we are using and disposing of more paper today than ever before. With increased communication in all forms, we have seen increased rates of corporate crime, from anti money laundering to credit card fraud which totalled over £500 million in 2004. Now with criminals using ‘bin raiding’ as a way to access corporate and personal information every company’s rubbish is a potential security risk.”

Although SMEs lag significantly behind the rest of UK businesses, other sectors still have room for improvement.  Over half of insurance companies (52%) and 49% of HR departments have no detailed document disposal policy for example and just over one third of the financial and legal sectors questioned admitted that they didn’t have a fully documented procedure

The healthcare sector is the most vigilant with 77% having full procedures although almost one quarter (23%) do not have a fully documented procedure.

For those company’s that do have a formal procedure in place the most popular approach to the secure disposal of information is shredding with 99% of respondents either shredding documents themselves or saving them for a third party to shred.

The revision to the Data Protection Act came into force in January 2005 and lays out guidelines to help companies reduce the risk of exposure to a corporate security breech. Forty-nine per cent of companies questioned agreed their knowledge of the new Data Protection Act is detailed and fully up to date while 24% admitted their knowledge needs brushing up. A further 23% are working towards compliance and will be there soon while 18% of SOHO workers did not know they needed to change their approach and have a lot of work still to do!

A poll, carried out on behalf of Fellowes by Populus, shows the full extent of the public’s concern about Britain’s fastest growing crime.  81% of the British public are concerned about becoming a victim of identity theft, and 87% believe the Government should help by issuing clear guidelines to individuals and businesses detailing the most effective ways to destroy information containing personal details.

Tyron Hill adds, “Failing to take steps to dispose of key documents and data securely can expose a business, its staff and its customers to huge security risks.  Three simple steps are all that is required to kick start a corporate policy of professional disposal of sensitive information.”

Hill explains: “Making staff aware of the types of materials that can potentially lead to a breach of security is paramount. Often people are surprised to learn that every day office documents including headed paper, letters with signatures and invoices can all provide valuable information about a company or person that can be pieced together to make a fraudulent transaction.”

“Most importantly of all, invest in a paper shredder and ensure any documents that contain details of financial transactions or personal information are shredded before they reach the rubbish bin.”

Easy shredding

Organisations can invest from a range of Fellowes shredders to protect themselves and their customers from ID theft.  The Powershred range features a heavy-duty motor allowing continuous use can shred paper, paperclips, CDs and even floppy discs.

Business to Business shredder stockists:

Wholesalers including Kingfield Heath and Spicers, Contract stationers including Banner, Guilbert and Lyreco, Mail order stationers including Neat Ideas and Viking Direct. Or call Fellowes on 01302 836 836 for more stockist information
For more info go to

High street shredder stockists include:
Argos, Homebase, ASDA, B & Q, Comet, Currys, Dixons, OfficeWorld, PC World, Ryman, ToysRus.

Editor’s notes:
Headquartered in Itasca, Illinois, Fellowes, Inc. offers an impressive range of products to equip the workspace, including paper shredders, binders and laminators, desktop accessories and record storage solutions.  Fellowes, Inc. owns and operates subsidiaries in Canada, United Kingdom, Benelux, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Singapore, Japan, Korea and Australia. The company employs more than 1,200 people throughout the world and expects global sales in excess of $700 million this year.  For more information, visit

For further press information and photography, please contact:
Clarisse Hoffmann / Abigail Lovell
Tel. 0207 395 7150 / 7064
Fax 0207 395 7071