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Five Tips for Proper Document Disposal after Switching to an Electronic Document Management System

More and more apartment owners and property managers are turning to document management systems to control the paper flow and streamline and improve their business processes. These systems not only manage electronic bills, contracts, and invoices, but also create an electronic library of documents once they’ve been scanned into the system.

But after you’ve made the move to an electronic document management system, how do you properly dispose of all the information that has occupied file folders, filled storage boxes, packed file cabinets, and otherwise cluttered up your desk?

Proper document disposal is essential as improper or otherwise short-sighted removal can put your property management company, employees, and residents at risk for fraud and identity theft. Consider:

  • In November 2011, a Dallas news crew showed up at an apartment complex and pulled credit applications – complete with copies of driver’s licenses and social security cards – from a dumpster. A spokesman for the complex said the documents were intended to be shredded but were mistakenly placed in the dumpster.
  • In 2008, MSNBC’s website reported that sheriff’s deputies in DeKalb County, Ga., outside Atlanta, found the mortgage records of at least 1,200 former customers of Ameriquest Mortgage Co. in a dumpster behind an apartment complex, two years after the nation’s biggest subprime lenders ceased operation.

Having a system in place that securely and confidentially destroys or removes sensitive documents enables apartment property managers and owners to comply with federal regulations, safeguard residents’ privacy, and prevent identity theft and security breaches.

Here are some tips for property owners and managers to consider when disposing of sensitive documents after importing them into a document management system:

Determine What Documents Should be Shredded

Any documents that disclose personally identifiable information, such as driver’s license or social security number, or banking information such as PIN and direct-deposit/payment numbers, should be shredded.  Also, get rid of receipts or papers that show signatures, as well as credit card numbers. Visit Consumer Reports for a more complete list of the types of documents that you should seriously consider destroying.

Establish a Shred-Ready Center

Use that storage room that once held all those documents to safely store documents that need to be destroyed after importing into a document management system. Documents can be placed in boxes, often provided by a shredding service or purchased at office supply centers. Clearly mark boxes that contain information to be shredded. The room should be locked at all times and only authorized personnel be allowed to enter.

Consider a Shredding Specialist

Shredding companies can remove and shred documents often without the technician touching or seeing them. Shredders typically provide containers of various sizes that have slots for placing documents to be shredded. The containers are wheeled and placed on the automatic lift of the shredding truck and the documents are shredded on site. Organizations like the National Association for Information Destruction can provide information for destruction services.

Establish a Regular Document Removal or Shredding Schedule

Don’t let documents pile up in that new shred-ready center. Set a regular schedule to shred on site or with a shredding specialist. From a risk management perspective, documenting the date that materials are destroyed is a recommended legal precaution.

Minimize Off-Site Printing and Copying of Sensitive Information

If employees are working off-site at another property, or even at home, minimize printing and copying of sensitive paper documents. A document printed elsewhere or entered for the first time off-site in a document management system could find its way into a standard trash can or unsecured dumpster. Not all employees should have access to destroying sensitive documents or removing them from the property.

By properly disposing of sensitive documents, property owners can take an important step toward maintaining confidentiality with vendors and residents. Is your property practicing safe document management?

As seen at PropertyManagementInsider.com.

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