‘Paper is the easiest way to steal identity. Anybody can do it,” says Gina Lentine of Ringoes-based Assure Shred, a mobile document shredding company. Electronic identity theft is generally done on a larger, headline-grabbing scale, but it takes a fair amount of skill. Cyber theft gets the ink, but low tech theft of ink on plain white paper, easily accomplished by anyone with the ability to root around in a back alley garbage can, can cause havoc — and create heavy business losses.

Lentine goes over the basics of document shredding when she address a free meeting of the Capital Networking Group on Tuesday, June 25, at 7:30 a.m. at the Princeton United Methodist Church at Nassau and Vandeventer streets.

Lentine is a 2003 graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder, where she studied marketing and advertising before heading to Key West, Florida, to work in event marketing for a conference center. The Ringoes native returned to New Jersey some four years ago just as her mother, Deborah Lentine, was retiring from a career teaching and working in administration in the Hunterdon Central school system.

Each at a crossroad, the two decided to start a business.

“We wanted something that people needed, that could grow in a recession economy,” says Lentine. “We searched on security and that sort of thing and came across shredding.” After doing lots of research, they realized that there was a clear and growing need for document shredding. Taking the plunge, they decided to skirt franchising and start their business from scratch. They discovered that there is a company whose sole business is manufacturing shredding trucks. They bought a truck, hired a driver, and set about marketing the business.

Deborah Lentine, who taught math in her former career, “handles the numbers,” says her daughter, who plunged right into marketing. She uses social media, including Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and relies heavily on face-to-face networking through chambers of commerce and organizations like the Capital Networking Group. Most business, she says, comes from word of mouth.

Assure Shred has contracts with some clients, picking up shredded documents on a regular basis, and also does what Lentine refers to as “purges,” where document backlogs are cleared away. These purges could be one time affairs, but more likely, she says, a company will call them again in a year or so to get rid of another mountain of sensitive documents. Assure Shred also does community shredding events, sometimes open to the public and sometimes offered by companies to its clients.

Whatever the frequency, the process is the same and the actual shredding involves no humans at all. Documents go from a locked container straight into the shredding truck, where they are cross cut into tiny pieces that, says Lentine, would be impossible to glue back together into anything comprehensible. The truck holds 10,000 pounds of paper, ensuring that any one document is mixed together with thousands of others. A camera built into the side of the truck makes a record of the boxes being fed into the shredder, providing a business owner the peace of mind that comes from knowing that no one will ever find a client’s personal information blowing down the street.

The shredding containers reside in a client’s offices, often near a copy machine, until it is time for the shredder to pick them up. “A key employee has a key to the container so that it can be opened if something is put in by mistake,” says Lentine.

Know the law. Most companies in most industries are required to shred documents that contain any information that could identify a client, says Lentine. “With HIPAA, health care clients know that,” she says. The relatively new HIPPA requirements are designed to ensure patients’ privacy. But other businesses also deal with sensitive information. Financial institutions, for example, make up one of Assure Shred’s biggest groups of clients. “Lots of local banks,” says Lentine. “Also financial advisors and insurance companies.”

Assure Shred also deals with law firms, retailers, and companies in many other fields. Each industry must follow its own set of laws and regulations regarding keeping client records secure and confidential, and shredding is often part of the equation.

Protect all stakeholders. Every company, no matter how small, has some documents that probably should be destroyed at some point, says Lentine, who points to HR records as an example. “If you have just one employee, you have confidential material,” she says. At the very least, there will be at a record of his Social Security number, address, and full name. There are also likely to be salary notations and performance reviews. Any store or restaurant that accepts credit cards also has private customer information that needs to be safeguarded and disposed of securely.

Save your reputation. Expose your clients, customers, or employees to theft of their identity, trade secrets, health status, legal strategy, or tax liability and your reputation could well be shot, says Lentine. Shredding, she points out, protects a business as it protects the confidential information with which it is entrusted.

Clean up your clutter. Sensitive documents often end up in growing, teetering piles in what used to be the employee break room. “A lot of people know they have clutter,” says Lentine. “They just don’t get around to it.” Beyond increasing the possibility that confidential information will be stolen, the piles eat up valuable office real estate. A good purge could be in order. Lentine’s company does not sort through the boxes, but does have relationships with specialists who separate the must-keep items for those that are overdue for a trip to the shredder.

Be assured, says Lentine, that it will be a one-way trip. “Once it’s picked up,” she says, “there is no return.”

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