Save, Shred, or Toss? The Complete Guide to Important Papers

what important papers to shred

Identity theft is taking America by storm and led to more than 710 billion dollars in losses in 2020. Many people assume that identity theft is happening online, and they are right.

But thieves don’t need to hack into your computer to steal your identity. They just need to get your trash. To keep your confidential documents secure, you need to know how to store and dispose of your important papers.

What documents should you save for a few years? What documents should you shred? What can you throw away in your garbage with minimal processing?

Answer these questions and you can keep your money and information safe for years to come. Here is your quick guide.

Save Everything You Need for Day-to-Day Operations

Many people know that they have to save their tax records. The IRS advises businesses to keep their tax returns and supporting documents for several years. Invest in document storage for these papers.

You should also keep your employment tax records for at least four years. Employee identification numbers, tax returns, and W-4 forms should all be maintained.

You should maintain your corporation records forever. Your business formation documents, lists of shareholders, and copyright registrations all fall under this category.

Any contracts and legal documents should receive proper storage. Follow essential records management tips so your information stays safe.

Shred Confidential Records and Business Records

Some people hang onto their bank statements for years. While it’s important to track your finances, you can shred your statements after one year.

You should also shred documents that provide supplemental information to your tax returns. This includes receipts and mileage logs.

It is very important that you shred all documents with employee or customer details on them. You should maintain them in your office for only as long as you need them then have them destroyed by a professional document shredding company.

While many people throw junk mail in the trash, this should also be shredded along with any other mail with your personal information on it.

Toss Trash and Non-Essential Papers

You can throw away anything that you regard as non-essential. Drafts of marketing materials can go into the recycle bin. You can crumble your paper or tear it into pieces, but you do not need to call a shredder.

Envelopes without your contact information and nonconfidential sketches or notes can be tossed. Just be sure that they don’t contain any personal information on them.

If a document has information you wouldn’t want others to see, shred it. If it doesn’t, toss it.

Preserve Your Important Papers

It can be hard to tell what important papers you should throw away. Store anything you need for tax purposes or daily operations.

You should shred other important financial documents. You can keep bank records for a few years, but make room for more recent and important records.

Marketing materials and scrap paper can go straight into the trash.

Need more help learning what to keep, shred, or toss? Contact Federal Records Management and Shredding in Fort Wayne today.

How to Avoid a HIPAA Violation When Storing Records

Did you know that a HIPAA noncompliance fine can cost you tens of thousands of dollars?

If you’re a Fort Wayne healthcare professional or involved with the storage of sensitive patient information, knowing the ins and outs of HIPAA regulations is essential to keep you and your company out of legal trouble. 

But what’s the best way to avoid a HIPAA violation when storing patient records? Keep reading to find out.

What Is a HIPAA Violation?

HIPAA protects the private or sensitive information of patients. When you record patient information, it shouldn’t be accessible to anyone outside of the healthcare system (or health insurance system, if that’s your area of expertise) without expressed permission from the patient. 

When you leave documents somewhere that they’re easily accessible for people who aren’t supposed to see them, you’re putting yourself at risk of a HIPAA violation. 

When you have a HIPAA violation, your healthcare center is at risk of fines or worse. 

Do You Keep Digital Records? 

There’s been a push in the medical industry to make a change from physical to digital records. These documents aren’t stored anywhere that prying eyes can easily access, unlike traditional records, which may be stored around the office or in an accessible closet or drawer. 

That said, it’s still not impossible for someone to find digital records. Any kind of data breach will result in more damage than a rogue record being uncovered (though neither of these is ideal). 

Many people in the healthcare industry aren’t yet ready to switch to digital records, or they want to keep both digital and physical documents. 

How Can You Store Paper Records? 

If you choose to keep paper records alongside or instead of digital records, you need to know how to store them (and dispose of them) the right way.

It isn’t sustainable to store all of your physical records in your office. There’s only so much room, and organization becomes difficult when patients stack up. As we mentioned, you also put yourself at risk of a HIPAA violation if documents are improperly stored.

Disposal is also an issue. If you dispose of documents in such a way that they can still be read by someone who isn’t meant to read them, you’re still liable for that. 

It’s a good idea to invest in records management. Records management companies handle the storage space and security so you don’t have to in your own office. They also transport sensitive and confidential documents to and from the office safely.

When you’re ready to get rid of the documents that you no longer need, they make it easy to dispose of them. The documents are shredded into small strips, along with documents from other companies, making it impossible for anyone to be able to put documents back together. 

Don’t Risk a HIPAA Violation

Storing patient records puts you at risk of a HIPAA violation, but you can take steps to protect yourself and your healthcare center. By using professional storage solutions, the problem is taken out of your hands. 

You can get secure and accessible storage and disposal, so your patients’ information stays safe. 

Are you looking for the best document storage company around? We want to help you manage your records. Contact us with your questions so we can start working together. 

Document Archiving In 2020: How Has It Evolved

We’ve all had that moment where someone in the office asks for an old document. What did we do with it? Is it on our desk, in storage, or somewhere in the filing cabinets?

73% of business owners still print documents at least four times a day which means you most likely have plenty of paper to wade through. Add the documents that arrive in the mail and you can see the clear problem with storing paperwork.

This is where document archiving comes in. You can keep your important documents without taking up space in the office.

With the year coming to a close, let’s take a look back and see how document archiving has evolved through the years. How has it changed in the 21st century? Read on to learn more.

What Did Document Archiving Look Like in the Past?

Edwin Grenville Seibels invented the vertical filing cabinet in 1898 and revolutionized how people stored documents. The trouble is, filing cabinets take up a lot of space, and searching for specific documents takes time. However, paper can get lost, whether someone is careless or there’s a flood or fire.

Electronic document management systems (EDMS) made things easier in the 1980s, but this wasn’t a perfect system due to the limits of the technology. Over the past couple of decades, computers have also evolved. Now you can scan documents to the cloud, where staff can access them from all over the world. You can search for documents using keywords, and it helps with remote working.

The accessibility of cloud storage was the archiving evolution in the 21st century. When you can scan a document and view it in the cloud on your smartphone, do you still need paper?

How Secure Are Document Archives in the 21st Century?

All these benefits are great, but paper documents are still more secure than digital ones.

With paper documents, a person needs to physically access the room where your paper records are stored. Meanwhile, a savvy hacker can access your digital documents from miles away. A single data breach costs companies an average of $8.19 million.

Managed document facilities are more secure than storeroom filing cabinets. These facilities use 24/7 security to make sure only the right people have access to your files.

Such facilities often offer GPS tracking when you retrieve documents. You’ll always know who has access to your files and when they have access.

Tips for Archiving Paper Documents

Follow these five tips to keep confidential documents safe.

  1. The best way to keep paper documents safe is to use a managed off-site archive solution. This means no one can access your records by simply walking into your storage areas. 
  2. Confirm how long you need to keep financial records. Once records pass this age, destroy them. 
  3. Don’t keep copies of documents. Only archive one copy, which cuts down on storage space. Again, securely shred any copies.
  4. Many businesses also archive documents on computer hard drives. That might include your office server. Make sure that hard drives are secure and destroy the hard drive when archived documents are no longer needed. 
  5. When you’re updating computer hardware, choose hard drive destruction for your old machines. That way, no one can reconstruct your operating system to access old digital files.

Explore Our Document Management for Business

You can see that document archiving has changed somewhat. It started out in forgotten storerooms or dusty basements. Then it moved into filing cabinets, before making the leap to digital. Now, you can pair your digital strategy with a paper-based off-site archive.

Are you ready to explore a secure approach to document archiving? Contact us today to discuss your needs and get a quote.

Do You Know Long to Keep Employee Files After Termination?

Do you have some employee terminations but not sure how long you should keep the records?  The average person will have 12 different jobs in a lifetime, so at some point, you will most likely lose an employee either by termination or resignation.

There are rules you need to know when it comes to employee records and files. Keep reading to learn these guidelines on how long to keep employee files.

What Is Included in Employee Records?

Employee records contain information such as payroll records, benefits enrollment, medical records, personnel files, and also hiring information. Human resources typically keep the job-related materials and payroll records may be stored separately in the payroll department.

Information about the employee’s medical and health information is regulated with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) and needs to remain confidential.

How Long to Keep Hiring Records

You should save your hiring information for one year after you make a decision. This includes interview notes, applications, resumes, and job postings. This is needed in case anyone questions your hiring decision. 

Laws, such as Title VII and Americans with Disabilities Act, may require you to prove you were in compliance with your hiring. These documents will help you.

How Long Do You Have to Keep Employee Records on Payroll 

Law requires you to maintain and keep all payroll records for three years. You want to have a record of how much every employee was paid and how many hours each employee worked at your company. 

For exempt employees, you won’t need to maintain time records since pay is the same no matter how many hours the employee worked.

For non-exempt employees, be sure you keep a record of time worked as well. You also need to make sure he or she is labeled appropriately or you could owe additional compensation for overtime.

You also need to have information on how you calculated pay such as salary plus commission, set salary, overtime, hourly pay, or pay by project. You need this information for tax and pay questions but also an employee may need for FMLA eligibility.

If asked, you should be able to prove that you paid your employees appropriately for the hours worked even after the relationship was terminated.

How Long to Keep I-9 Forms

You should store and maintain employee I-9 Forms away from personnel records. You need to keep these forms for three years. 

You should have these in separate files in case the government requests to check them. Having this form separate from other personnel files will keep the employee’s other information private from other workers.

How Long to Keep Employee Files

The U.S. Equal Employment Commission (EEOC) requires a company to keep all employee records and personnel for at least one year after the termination date. These files include any information on:

  • Employee performance
  • Attendance notes
  • Emergency contact information
  • Acknowledgment of employee handbook
  • Resignation letter
  • Training records
  • Contact information
  • Employment contract
  • Exit interview
  • Any notes on disciplinary actions

These files are basically anything else related to the job but not medical information. 

Looking for Record Management or Shredding?

Now you have a basic idea of how long to keep employee files even after someone is no longer at your company. 

If you are looking for help with your record management or help to shred your documents after you no longer need them, contact us today.  We can help secure your documents for you. 

Home Office Safety Tips: 4 Tips for Protecting Confidential Documents When Working From Home

In 2017, around 8 million people worked from home. That figure has continued to rise, especially now, with more employees working from home during the pandemic.

While working from home has a lot of advantages, there are also some disadvantages. If you work from home and have access to your company’s data, it can make you vulnerable. Your privacy can be unprotected and the company’s confidential documents could be at risk. 

There is, however, a way to make your home office safer and protect confidential documents. If you want to learn about office safety tips you can take at home, keep reading to learn more ways to keep your company’s data and your privacy safe.

Protect Your Network

Your home router should have encryption so outsiders can’t hack your network. 

Encryption with the options of a WPA3 and a WPA2 on your router gives you some security in your home. It protects your internet and what files you store from your company on your personal internet. 

Keep Your Belongings Safe

Home office safety tips also include keeping your belongings safe. That essentially means not being careless of where you keep your laptop or the files you take home from the office. 

These confidential company documents might be for your eyes only, which makes it even more important that you keep them in a spot where people won’t see them but also where they won’t get damaged. 

Use a Company-Wide Storage System

Another home office safety tip is to work with the company on creating a DropBox or OneDrive storage system. 

You can find software that helps keep documents organized and protected. Instead of saving documents on your device, which is not always the safest place, you can save it on software that is designed to protect and organize files. 

Follow Protocols

If you recently started working from home, you may not be inclined to follow company rules because nobody is watching you. 

However, it’s even more important that you follow the company protocols when it comes to protecting company documents are disposing of them. Your home office is essentially an extension of the company office you work at. 

You should follow a protocol to avoid any security breach that could put you or your company in jeopardy. 

Home Office Safety Tips Can Protect Your Job and Your Company’s Data

These home office safety tips can help you not only protect your belongings and the data of your company, but it can also help you increase your productivity.

You’ll feel more organized and secure knowing you have security at home. 

When the company’s data is violated because of the lack of security measures in your home, it can cost you your job and the company a major financial loss. Having security measures in place can prevent this from ever happening. 

For more information on securing documents, you can contact us here

5 Tips for Safe and Sustainable E-Waste Disposal

Did you know that the average American family throws out 176 pounds of e-waste every year? That’s equal to about 400 iPhones. Examples of e-waste include smartphones, tablets, printers, and computers.

Businesses have even more e-waste to dispose of each year. After all, they have more monitors, printers, and hard drives than the average family. These items can quickly become outdated and when a device reaches the end of its lifespan, it’s time to replace it.

But what do you do with items when you know longer need them? These five tips will help you manage e-waste disposal for your company.

1. Find Local E-Waste Disposal Programs

The first thing to do is check in with your local waste disposal programs. Your local government may have programs in place to manage e-garbage with little trouble. Other local businesses may also have programs for the recycling of e-waste. As a business, you may have more e-waste than they expect. Talk to them, and make arrangements to handle the amount of e-waste your business produces.

2. Donate Used Items

Another way to deal with electronic devices that are no longer needed in your business is to donate them. Provided the items are in good working order, they can be redistributed.

3. Sell Working Devices

Another thing your business can do is resell used devices you no longer need. As long as it’s in good working order, you shouldn’t have a problem selling an iPhone or a computer on eBay or Craig’s List. You may even be able to sell devices that don’t work any longer. Some purchasers salvage parts from these devices to fix other devices.

4. Plan Ahead

One of the causes of e-waste is a lack of planning. Purchasing equipment such as a computer is a business decision you plan and cost carefully. You should also make sure you plan for the end of the item’s life, including how it will be disposed of. You may not think of smaller items, such as portable hard drives or other electronic gadgets. Many of these items are handed out at conferences, so you may not think twice about trashing them. If you attend a conference with these gifts, ask if there’s a program for recycling them. If you don’t need one, don’t take one. If you’re planning the conference, be sure to think ahead about disposal before you opt for these gifts. The best way to reduce electronic garbage is to buy less in the first place.

5. Check the Recycler’s Credentials

There will be times when you can’t avoid needing to dispose of your e-waste. When that happens, always be sure to check the credentials of the recycler you choose. Working with a certified recycling company means you can trust your e-waste is disposed of properly.

Protecting Your Business

You have many options for e-waste disposal. Keep in mind that disposal isn’t always the right answer for your electronic devices. Keeping your data safe should be one of your top priorities. In some cases, you’ll need to use other measures when you have devices that have reached the end of their lifespan such as destroy the hard drives to protect confidential information.

Our blog has many more tips for keeping all your business data safe. Read up on how to destroy a hard drive or the benefits of paper shredding to protect your data.

How Long Should You Keep Employee Records?

employee records

Anyone who works in HR knows: employee records add up. Between your records for past employees, current employees, and possible hires, it’s almost impossible to keep track of all the paperwork you have to deal with.

Is there a way to cut down on all of this?

You can keep your paperwork collection from getting too large by getting rid of old files. But there’s a certain amount of time you need to keep them before throwing them away.

Here’s how long to keep employee records.

How Long to Keep These Records

Figuring out how long you need to keep your employee records is not an exact science. But here are some good rules of thumb to get you started:

  • Hiring records: 1 year
  • Drug test records: 1 year (5 for transportation jobs)
  • Payroll: 3 years (5 years after termination)
  • Form I-9: 3 years after hire, 1 after termination
  • Benefits Information: 6 years
  • FMLA records: 3 years
  • Employment records: 3 years after termination

These rules are not flawless, but you should be keeping these files at least for this long.

Why are we being so cautious? Well, that’s because how the laws work depend on where you live …

A Word of Warning

Sometimes, state laws and federal laws differ. For example, here in Indiana, Payroll records need to be kept for 10 years, not 3. This is just one example of how things can be different.

When you notice any of these discrepancies, you should follow the longer rule. In our example, that means that you should be following the state law. But the state law is not absolute. If the federal law is longer, then you should follow that one instead.

It can be difficult to figure out when and how to keep employee records. And if you’re already running a business, or doing a thousand other HR jobs, how are you supposed to keep up on when these records are too old?

If you’re taking care of records on your own, it’s easy to let them pile up as you focus on other things.

What if there was an easier way?

Want to keep employee records safe?

What you need is records management. Professional records management will store all of your records for you, keep them organized and, most importantly, destroy them when the time comes. This keeps them out of your way when you don’t need them, and clean and organized when you do.

But, you may be thinking, this comes with its own set of problems.

What happens if you need the files? A lot of the time, you might be worried about getting them on time. When you need a file, you need it right then, not hours from when you ask for it. That’s why we provide our Fort Wayne clients with delivery within minutes, not hours or days.

If you’re looking for a records management service that is willing to work with you no matter what the time of day, then we’re your people. Get in touch to see how we can help you today!

5 Reasons Your Information Management System Needs a Shredding Service

Do you need a shredding service? Ask yourself these questions: Is time on a budget at work? Do you find that your information management system is being overlooked?

It might be easy to push information management to the back of your mind but as soon as you encounter a confidentiality issue, you will wonder why you did not make it a priority sooner. Even minor details can be used to compromise your company’s security if they end up in the wrong hands. To ensure that your company’s confidentiality is maintained with integrity, you should handle information with care.

Storage and disposal of confidential records and documents should be a priority and ensuring that information is managed properly can save you headaches and anxiety. Taking the time to make sure that your information management system is streamlined to effectively guard confidential information is crucial.

A shredding service can serve as an invaluable resource to maintaining your company’s confidentiality and staying ahead of the curve.

Here are 5 reasons that you will want to use a shredding service:

Why Your Information Management System Needs a Shredding Service:

1. A shredding service guards against theft of confidential information.

There are reportedly 9 million victims of identity theft each year.

If these victims had invested in a shredding service, they would have likely been able to prevent becoming a part of this unfortunate statistic.

Shredding documents that can be used to steal identifying information is an effective way to guard against theft.

Professional thieves can use your information or your company’s information in catastrophic ways, wreaking irreparable damage.

The best way to guard against these invasive criminals is to proactively dispose of any documentation that can be used against you.

2. A shredding service can effectively dispose of large amounts of information.

When you are involved with the ins and outs of running a business, you might not realize just how much information that passes through your company, or how this information could be used against you.

A shredding service can accommodate the large amounts of documentation that companies often encounter.

When left to your own devices, you may not be as responsible in disposing of confidential documents.

3. A shredding service saves you time.

When you are crunched for time, disposing of your private information and protecting your company can be shuffled to the bottom of the barrel.

A shredding service takes care of the work, so you can take care of the things that you need to.

4. A shredding service is an efficient way to create space solutions.

Without a shredding service, many documents and papers will linger around the office far longer than necessary.

You might be surprised how distracting and space-consuming paperwork in the office can be: mail, files, paperwork, documentation…

Shredding can free up large areas of space and eliminate confusion and lack of organization in the office.

You waste time and energy sorting through papers, and revisiting piles of documents and mail that need tossing.

When you employ a shredding service, you are much more inclined to toss those unwanted and unneeded papers immediately, which clears space for the things that really need your attention.

5. Shredding helps to develop a system for documents that you need to keep and documents that should be thrown out.

When you have a shredding service you are more likely to differentiate between those papers that you should keep and those that you should not.

Shredding is one way to stay more organized.

When you rely on a shredding service, then you are more inclined to stay on top of the piles of paper. You realize that this stack is disposable, so you categorize appropriately.

When you have a destination for things, you are more likely to incorporate a system for dealing with them.

Conclusion:

A shredding service can offer businesses a number of valuable benefits. They help you to stay organized, protect yourself, save time and conserve space. If you need help getting your system on-track, let us help!

New Year’s Resolutions for the Workplace

new years resolutions for the office
The New Year is a time to give some thought to more than just personal goals for the upcoming year. It’s also a great time to set goals for improvements in the office (where we spend so much of our time, after all).

Business articles this time of year are rife with suggestions for how to make the workplace better. The most popular suggestions?

  • take breaks — leave your desk for lunch; get up and walk around the office (or outside) a couple of time a day; or, at the very least, get up for a stretching and deep breathing break every hour
  • be more positive — look for the good in other people; appreciate the efforts of others; give compliments; don’t be so hard on yourself
  • declutter and get organized —  desks, filing systems, computer files; now is the time of year to set up systems that will be easy to stick to for the rest of the year such as a clean desk policy.

Our personal favorite? Strengthen your organization’s information security. Even if your business doesn’t require compliance with information security regulations, every business needs to be aware of the risks of identity theft or other types of information fraud. No one wants to be responsible for clients, employees, or your company’s intellectual property being put at risk by not properly securing information at your workplace. The professionals at Federal Records Management & Shredding are experts in helping you and your employees understand:

  • what information should be protected
  • how best to protect it
  • how to dispose of it in a secure manner

Put information security at the top of your resolutions for 2017! It’s the resolution that will protect you, your business, your customers, and your employees for years to come.

End of Year Document Purge

end of year file purge

Clean It Up, Clear It Out: Office Clean-Up Day!

At work, most of us don’t have the inclination or the time to devote to purging old documents and files. Work time is for work! However, dealing with files appropriately is an important task that helps a business run more smoothly AND reduces the chance of privacy or confidentiality breaches. It’s also a waste of space, time and energy to keep resources — information, supplies, equipment, etc. — around that don’t contribute to the company’s productivity or mission.

One way to make this important job more appealing is to designate an entire day for the entire staff to engage in an office-wide “purging”. Here’s a suggested Plan of Action to get started:

  • Assign one person or a small team to coordinate the day. Most businesses purge unwanted documents at the end of the year. It’s not only easy to remember but coincides with the fiscal year end.
  • This team should inventory the types of documents used by your business and
    determine rules for what can go in the trash or recycling, what needs to be
    shredded, and what should go to long-term storage.
  • Establish the day and give everyone notice well in advance (with frequent reminders as the day gets closer). Make it clear that everyone is expected to participate.
  • Create user-friendly instructions for document disposal or retention to hand out to all staff. Make especially sure that managers or supervisors understand the rules and can assist staff with questions.
  • Arrange for additional recycling and trash bins; arrange for an on-site shredding company or extra bins to transport files off-site for destruction.
  • And have some fun!
  • Make it a dress down day
  • Carry in breakfast and lunch
  • Have a contest like “guess how many pounds of paper were shredded”
  • Have someone take before and after pictures of the messiest spaces or file cabinets
  • Set up a “white elephant” room for unwanted items to be up for grabs, or donated to charity at the end of the day

The team at Federal Records Management and Shredding can provide advice and services to make sure your end of year document purge is handled appropriately. We know all the ins-and-outs of the privacy regulations that affect your business and offer paper shredding and secure hard-drive destruction, as well as secure on-site records retention (with an online inventory system that makes records retrieval easy and fast). Contact Federal Records Management and Shredding today to learn how our services can help make sure your businesses end of year document purge is handled safe and efficiently.