The new breed of thieves don't rob banks or crack safes--instead, they steal personal information from companies and individuals and use it for financial crime, from credit-card fraud to insurance schemes. "These days, it's easier for a criminal to obtain personal identifiers than steal your wallet," says the General Accounting Office's Richard Stana.
"The personal information you might collect as a way of doing business can be stolen and used," cautions Stana. "Business owners who maintain files should protect them as they would any valuable asset."
But vital information doesn't have to end up in the wrong hands. Using a document-destruction company to truck your paper waste to giant industrial shredders could be what you need to keep your--and your customers'--peace of mind.
Ellen Paris is a Washington, DC, writer and former Forbes magazine staff writer.
U.S. General Accounting Office, http://www.gao.gov