Muskegon Firm Protects Businesses From Dumpster Divers

May 7, 2002
| By Katy Rent |
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MUSKEGON – In a world where “Dumpster diving” is becoming an occupation, confidentiality is key. One way to protect your company’s confidentiality is to properly dispose of all sensitive material.

The other key factor to the equation is Lakeshore Confidential Destruction (LCD).

A new state law in Wisconsin requires businesses to properly dispose of all patient or client material. The state defines “properly dispose” as shredding and erasing all data that relates to the client. The “Dumpster Diving Law,” included in the 1999-2001 state budget, is designed to protect Wisconsin residents from having their identities stolen by people rummaging through trash.

Businesses that don’t properly destroy records can be fined up to $1,000 per violation when the law takes effect. Businesses can also be held liable in civil court for damages suffered by anyone whose personal information is improperly thrown away.

Lakeshore Confidential Destruction hopes this law will soon become part of Michigan’s statutes.

LCD, owned by Gary and Charlotte Olson, is in the business of destruction. It’s also a business that, over time, is becoming more and more necessary. One of the reasons for that is the speed with which white collar crime, including identity theft, is growing.

LCD has established its Muskegon office by running a smooth and secure operation. In addition to document destruction, the company also offers businesses the option of storing documents at its facility. When the client no longer wants its stored documents, LCD will then destroy the material.

This can be done in a couple of different ways. One option is to have a locked container for sensitive documents at the client’s office. The client simply deposits documents into the container, which is picked up by an LCD truck and taken to disposal. There are two keys for the container; one kept by the company and one kept by LCD.

When LCD picks up the container, the driver fills out an order and the customer signs a release. The locked container is then taken to the plant and logged. Each container is labeled with the customer’s name on it and if sorting is not required it is tipped into the shredder.

When shredding is complete the label is removed and the time is documented.

“We can track a container from pickup time until destruction time; nothing is missed,” said Charlotte Olson. At the end of the trail the customer is given a “certificate of destruction.”

“All of our employees are licensed and bonded so things are very secure,” said Gary Olson.

After shredding, the paper is bound into 1,000-pound bales and kept until there is enough for a truckload. The paper then goes to a pulp mill where it is cleaned and the ink removed. The paper is turned into other paper materials, most likely tissue, the Olsons said.

The second option, which is even more secure than the first, is to have LCD’s Mobile Onsite Destruction Service come straight to the customer and shred documents on site. “We have a shredder in the truck and the customer can have documents that can’t leave the building shredded while they watch. We then take the shreds in bags and bring it to the plant to be bound with the other paper,” said Charlotte Olson. “We also allow customers to come here and watch their documents be shredded if they wish.”

Some claim that shredding is not the most efficient or secure way of disposing of sensitive material because the true criminal can piece the paper back together. “That is why our paper is shredded and also crimped so it is unable to be pieced back together,” said Gary Olson. “It is also mixed in with numerous other papers so it would be virtually impossible to piece it all back together.”

A third service LCD offers its customers is document organization.

“We will go to our customer’s office and see how things are organized and how files are stored. We are able to re-organize and re-arrange them in a way where it is easy to find things with a small amount of effort instead of hours of looking time (being) wasted,” Gary Olson added.

The document destruction business is a fast growing field and likely to grow even larger in the coming years, thanks in part to the Wisconsin law.

“There are so many ways for criminals to get a hold of your information that you don’t even think of. This is why a company like this is so important, especially to businesses. The money they pay us to dispose of their documents isn’t even a fraction of what they would pay in lawsuits and other legal matters if someone got a hold of sensitive information,” he said.

The Olsons said companies don’t know how dangerous seemingly harmless documents can be if thrown out. Take, for example, old checks from a closed account or a business that has closed. If these checks fall into the wrong hands the Olsons said, they can be passed off as payroll checks and cashed.

“I talked with a private investigator who said the first thing he does when he is assigned to a case is go to the Dumpster. It is amazing what you can find out about a person or company just by looking through their trash,” said Gary Olson.

“Most people tear up documents they don’t want someone to be able to read. If someone is looking through your trash the first thing they are going to look for is torn or crumpled paper because it is obviously something important.”

Another thing to remember is that Dumpster diving, or trash picking, is legal. Thanks to a ruling by the Supreme Court in California v. Greenwood, anything put on the curb is public domain. Anyone from the neighborhood kids, to your grandmother, to the police, to garbage pickers can search through your trash. It is using that information in a harmful way that can be against the law.

“We are really in the education business,” said Charlotte Olson. “We want to teach companies how harmful their trash can be to them if they dispose of sensitive documents in the wrong way. We are selling security and in effect this is cheap insurance.”

In the last three years LCD has tripled its business and the Olsons look for the same growth in the coming years.

“We are beginning to get into the destruction of prototype, government-seized and recalled products also and in the future we look to adding a temperature sensitive media vault,” said Gary Olson. “With the way companies and people are being taken advantage of by the Dumpster divers and with the new Wisconsin law we see a good future in the document destruction business and in Lakeshore Confidential Destruction.”           

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