Policy Disclosure / Fav Links / Free Site Listing

Jun 10, 2008

Destroy Sensitive Documents

Every month you receive some kind of document with sensitive information on it. This could be a bank statement, credit card statement, pay stub, or a receipt. Throwing these things in the trash is not enough to keep them safe from prying eyes. Your sensitive information must be irreversibly destroyed.

Determine if the document really needs to be destroyed and if it will be needed again.
Determine what exactly is private information that you wouldn't want to be seen. More than likely you want to keep the document for your records, so it isn't always necessary to destroy the entire thing.
Using a simple hole punch, cut out the sensitive areas into pieces of confetti. Half-moon shapes are best. If the confetti is all circles you didn't use enough punches.
If any information you wish to destroy takes up a large area (requiring a lot of hole punches) or is not easily accessible with the hole punch, cut out the area using an Exacto Knife. Leave a little extra blank area on at least one side.
Once the information is cut out simply burn away the offending piece of paper.
Burning the paper with other pieces of scrap paper mixed in will mean that if by accident a part is not burnt the remains of the scrap paper mixed in will help confuse anyone who tries to read it.
Find somewhere with a minimal amount of flammable material and little or no wind. Hold the pieces with a pair of pliers or some other tool so you don't have to hold it with your bare hands. This is also important since placing burning paper in a tray or pan doesn't provide proper airflow and most likely won't completely burn. Hold it by the extra blank area, because whatever part is pinched won't get burned.
Once it is finished burning drop it in water (which will ensure it doesn't catch anything else on fire) or blow on it (assuming you don't mind bits of ash everywhere).

Traditional shredders (that cut paper into strips) won't keep someone from putting it back together.
If you frequently destroy sensitive documents, consider investing in a cross-cut shredder. They're more expensive, but they will save you time.
Though time consuming, an eraser will rub off ink, usually by rubbing off the paper.
When burning, paper ventilation is important, not only to avoid smoke inhalation but to ensure a full and proper burn.
Most offices have paper shredders or record destruction services. Check with your office manager and see if you can bring in your own documents for destruction.
As far as burning the pieces of paper, try using a cast-iron bathtub. Make sure that there is nothing in the bottom, such as plastic foot grips. This way, if it does somehow manage to get out of control, you have the tub with a ready supply of water.

If using an Exacto Knife, be aware that the surface below the paper will be scratched. Not to mention Exacto Knifes are extremely sharp.
As always, be careful when using fire.